Picture Perfect: Top 10 Tips for Managing a Photocall
Image: Digital Hub Future Creators showcase. Credit: Naoise Culhane
As all public relations practitioners know, the photocall is one of the most important tools in our PR toolbox. Here, DHR’s Sarah Harte shares top 10 tips for getting it right.
1) Book your own photographer
It’s extremely important to choose your photographer wisely. At DHR, we work with a number of press photographers on a regular basis – those we know to be creative, professional, and reliable, as well as having a good track record of obtaining coverage in the media outlets we’re targeting.
Unfortunately, for most clients, it’s not enough to issue a photocall notice to photo-desks and wait for press photographers to turn up. With ever-diminishing resources, many media outlets have made cutbacks in their photography departments and, because of this, the competition with other events and breaking news can be too fierce to guarantee they will definitely send photographers to cover your event.
We always recommend our clients hire a professional, NUJ-affiliated photographer, to attend their photocall and issue photographs to picture-desks afterwards. This ensures clients have control over what images are taken and provided to press, as the photographer is working on their behalf. It also means the client can access the images afterwards (even if they don’t land in the papers) and have them for use on their website, social media, in publications and more.
2) Develop a strong photocall concept
Whether you’re launching a new campaign, announcing a festival programme, or highlighting the results of your annual report, it’s important to devote time to developing a strong – and appropriate – concept for your photocall.
Once you know what your key media messages are, you need to think about what you want the pictures to achieve, the story they have to tell and how they might be used. How can you ensure the photos captured have ‘media appeal’? Familiarise yourself with the different types of images used by the media through keeping an eye on newspapers and online news sources on a daily basis. Pay attention to the types of shots that different media outlets carry. This will give you a good indication as to what picture editors are looking for.
The location you choose for your photocall is very important too: ideally, it should be outside with colourful backdrops like gardens, trees, buildings or brightly painted walls, are all elements that picture editors like.
3) Select the photocall participants
It’s important to identify who needs to be in your photocall and what their role is. Depending on the concept of the photocall, no more than three or four participants should generally be needed, as more than that will make the photographs look crowded. Usually, there should be a number of relevant participants lined up and ready to take part, but the photographs might feature a selection of these or different combinations of the various participants.
If the participants are under 18, remember to get parental consent for their involvement in the photocall.
If you decide to use celebrity personalities in your photocall, brief them sufficiently about how long it will take and allow enough time – if possible – for a wide selection of photographs to be taken.
4) Avoid logo ‘overkill’
While organisations are always eager to have their branding included in press shots, obvious brand placement is a major turn-off for photo editors. Taking photographs against a backdrop of your organisation’s branding is fine for other purposes, but – for press – over-branding is a big no-no. It’s great if there are some key props you’d like to include to highlight what you are promoting, but trying to squeeze logos into every photo, branded pop-ups, t-shirts and signage everywhere, will not get you media coverage.
5) Be mindful of timing
Timing is everything: think about what media you are trying to target with your photocall, and then choose a time that suits their deadlines well.
If your photocall is part of a wider event , don’t make the photographer(s) sit through hours of speeches and presentations; ensure the photocall takes place during a scheduled break or, better yet, in advance of any speeches or presentations.
6) Brief your photographer on required shots
Identify all shots that need to be taken during your photocall, and brief your photographer in detail in advance. In addition to press shots, think about whether you could capture additional useful images, for example, of your board members, for social diary pages, or for use in your online profiles.
It can be useful to write out a suggested shot list before the event, agreeing on the approach for each shot with your photographer, and managing this to ensure all the important shots are captured.
7) Write a great photo notice and caption
A photo notice is usually issued the day before a photocall takes place, alerting all picture-desks to the event and inviting them to send along a photographer to cover it. The more detail on the visual elements and concept of the photocall, as well as the participants involved, the better.
At the photocall itself, it is useful to have copies of a photo caption available to give to any photographers who turn up. This should give the names of participants (and space to write more names and detail if needs be) and brief details of your media messages.
8) Build relationships with photographers
The more photocalls you do, the more you will get to know the various photographers that work for photo agencies (e.g. Photocall Ireland) and media outlets. Try to be as helpful as possible and assist photographers with setting up shots (which can involve anything from crawling behind signs to keep them upright, to standing with flashes held high in the air!). As with any media relations, the sooner you can respond to any queries they might have, the better.
Be sure to listen to the photographers on the day; they are doing this day in and day out, and have the best insight into what their editors are looking for. Ask for their advice and take their suggestions on board.
9) Distribute different shots for different publications
Most photographers will understand that certain publications are looking for specific styles of images. The celeb shots that will land in the national tabloid papers won’t hold the same appeal for The Irish Times.
Likewise, the business pages may appreciate the more ‘corporate’ shot of photocall participants speaking at a conference, with a customised caption highlighting the business angle to a story.
10) Manage expectations
It is important to be realistic and manage expectations about the likely results from any photocall. If the photocall is focused on a local community event; is not particularly creative; and does not feature any well-known faces, the photos are unlikely to be picked up by national media outlets. However, local newspapers may feature them.
Even if you get great shots, something may happen – entirely outside of your control – that means your photos aren’t featured in the media the following day. The unpredictability of the news agenda, as well as the aforementioned stretched resources in media outlets, mean it can be difficult to forecast if your photos will make the cut.
However, if you follow the advice outlined above – hiring a reliable photographer, creating a great concept, getting the timing right, choosing the right participants, building relationships with press photographers, tailoring your photographers for relevant media, not going overboard on branding – then you have a very good chance of seeing your photographs in print after your photocall.
DHR Communications offers high-quality services that are responsive to individual client needs, working with clients in an advisory or hands-on capacity.
For more information about the range of services DHR provides, check out www.dhr.ie/services/