In Focus: Photography thoughts from Edinburgh

First published in August 2012

I’m currently at the Edinburgh Festival, the world’s biggest cultural event, where I co-publish one of the main review media, ThreeWeeks. For four weeks a year I go from being an exclusively online publisher, to running a print title, with a daily reviews sheet to share, and a free weekly 24 page magazine to distribute in sites across the Scottish capital.

It’s when I return to print each summer that I remember just how important good photography is. There are 2600 shows at this Festival for us to choose from when planning our editorial, and sometimes a good photo alone can get a producer some column inches. We actually have our own photo team (partly because ThreeWeeks also operates a student journalist programme, and that includes some great aspiring photographers), but most of our competitors here do not, relying on the images supplied to them by the show producers and their PR teams.

And even we, when deciding which five star reviews to feature with a nice big photo in our weekly magazine, often rely on the pictures relevant publicists can supply. Some do it very well, but others… well, every year at least five shows lose their prime position on one of our pages because we can’t access decent high quality photos at press time (which is, as it happens, at 4am in the morning).

So, with arts and entertainment PRs most in mind, though some of this applies to other branches of the public relations industry too, here are my top tips for providing photos to media. Some of these might seem obvious, but you’d be amazed how many times even bigger brands or agencies fail on a few counts.

1. It’s good to make a number of photos available for any individual, product or project, so media can choose what works best for their page.

2. An interesting backdrop can really make a photo stand out, and add some colour. Though it might be worth considering also having a photo with a white backdrop – some publications might want to ‘wrap’ their text around the people or product in the image, and having a photo where it’s easy to Photoshop out the backdrop is useful.

3. If possible, provide a landscape, portrait and square photo; some website designs require photos to be a certain shape, and if they need it portrait or square and you’ve provided landscape, who or whatever’s on the peripheries of the photo will likely get cut off.

4. For people shots, it’s good to have a couple of photos which are close up on the faces, and a couple which show full bodies, giving the media more flexibility in how they use your pictures.

5. Putting arty effects on photos may look great for an individual or brand’s personal website and social media, and may be the sort of thing people will want to share via Tumblr and Pinterest, which is great. But media will generally prefer straight photos untampered with in Instagram or Photoshop.

6. Most media are full colour these days. Black and white photos might look more arty, and are fine for your own web presence, but make sure you have colour photos for everyone else to use.

7. Once you have your great photos, make them available in as many places as possible – have clearly marked media sections on any relevant websites, have an easily accessible images section on any PR agency sites, and it’s also good to have them available via any official Facebook pages.

8. Clearly label press photos as PRESS PHOTOS, so media know they can use them without any copyright issues. It’s also useful to date them, so journalists can see which are most recent.

9. Online media only need photos at 72dpi at the size they appear on screen (and can therefore often grab them from your Facebook). Print media will need higher resolution photos (preferably 300 dpi), so make links to these files available on your website.

10. When emailing press releases to journalists, it’s better to provide links to both high res and low res photos – or to a press photo page on your website – rather than attaching or embedding lots of photos with the email.