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The Art (and science) of the Photo Opp


The Photo Opp. If you’re a publicist, chances are you’ll take thousands of these over the course of a career.  And in the changing landscape of shrinking newsrooms and growing digital content, they’re more important than ever.  More often than not, we’re being asked to send photos to editors and allowed to control content.  For us publicists, that’s a very good thing.

So what’s so hard about taking a photo?  Between smart phones, auto focus and filters, it’s as easy as point and shoot, right?  There’s more to a great photo opp than just a pretty shot.  Before you shoot, put some thought into your set up and the audience it’s intended for.  Remember the basics…

Candid shots can be staged:

Sshhh, don’t tell the editor that.  There is nothing more boring than a picture of a group of people staring into the camera and smiling.  Just flip through any newspaper or news website.  How many shots do you see like that? None because they’re dull.  Action is key, even if that means staging it.  If you have to put your client into a grape stomp and make him crush grapes, do it.  It’s not about fabricating a scene, it’s about showcasing it.  Capture the activity and don’t let your subjects stop and stare at the camera.

Less is More

Keep shots to three or four people max.  Group shots are well…overcrowded.  And let’s face it, it’s challenging to ID everyone.  Some situations necessitate taking some large group shots to keep everyone happy.  If that’s the case do it.  Then suggest that you take a few alternative shots of smaller groups.  There’s no harm in snapping extra pictures in the name of diplomacy.  You don’t have to use them.

Beware the Dreaded Check Presentation

Enough said.  Check presentations, even with the oversized ones, are cliché and dull.  Get creative.  Your client is donating $500 to the local humane society?  Get her delivering dog food and supplies to the shelter or playing with the pups.  He’s making a donation to a food pantry?  Capture him stocking the shelves with the pantry’s executive director.  Anything other than handing over a check.

Resolution Counts

When editing photos, I usually save two versions.  A low res version at 96 dpi and a high res version at 300 dpi.  When sending photos, know your audience.  A glossy magazine is going to need a high resolution shot, while a website needs only a low res shot.  By saving two versions, each named accordingly, I have both at my fingertips.


Never walk away from your subjects without verifying their full names, correct spelling, titles and any other information that will be relevant in the caption. There’s nothing worse than having to waste time following up to verify this information after the fact, especially when you’re up against a deadline!

-Marci Tyldesley

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