Images that sell a story

Images can make or break an editorial story.

Many a pitched story of mine has gone from a half page editorial to a double page spread or even a cover once the editor has seen my images.  Usually it’s because they’re exclusive images or they are simply stunning pictures in a destination’s image library that have not been overused.

This week I have been working on a feature for a major magazine. I contacted various in house PR professionals, tourism boards and PR agencies asking for appropriate images.

What did I get?  Well, to start many didn’t return my emails because clearly they already have ‘enough’ editorial.  Others didn’t return my follow up phone calls, no doubt for the same reason.

When I did get a response from those who did want to be in a magazine that fits their target market I received one of two things.  A link for an image library where I could choose the images wanted or email attachments of images they would like us to use.  Simple, right?

Well, just for the record, DSC_072.jpg is not a caption.  If you don’t caption your images then I have to do it for you which means one of two things.  More work for me and made up captions that may not fit your product.  Just for the record, many journalists have a policy of not opening any image that isn’t captioned.

76kb is not high res and 5mb is not low res so when I ask for high res images sent in separate emails or FTP’d in a ZIP file bundle then please do not send three images of 3mb each on one email.  Also please don’t send me 76kb images lifted from your website because they are not print publishable at that size.  Oh, and if they’re not 300dpi then don’t send at all.

I realise that paragraph should have come with subtitles so let me translate. Kb and mb is the file size. DPI is the physical dot density of an image and  FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and allows you to upload large images onto a web server that can be downloaded by someone at the other end.  A good free site to use for this is YouSendIt.

With the advent of the iPhone Joe Public has become the new news reporter. While his dodgy video or blurry image may be good enough for an online news site as seen in the recent Queensland floods don’t think that an iPhone is a professional camera tool for PR.

As a ski reporter I am constantly sent images shot on a mini digi camera by the marketing co-ordinator sent out to get some pics of recent snowfall. Often they will be out of focus or have a person standing in the centre of the image with a chairlift tower sticking out of their head because the photographer is not a professional and did not think about composition.  The result?  Unpublished photos.

If you have  a tourism or lifestyle product it’s important to have a good image library.  Here are some tips to help.

  • Ensure the image library is available in low res (up to 500kb), high res (1-4mb) and also TIF or RAW format which will be very large files that must be FTP’d when sending.
  • Name every image file.  Inside front lobby, sunset poolside, beetroot entree, chef Michael Roland, deluxe guest room etc
  • Have an online image library that is accessible for journalists and send the user name and password to the journalist upon request. Having a registration process is just too time consuming for journalists and picture editors.
  • Keep some photos aside for exclusive use
  • Update your image library regularly

One more tip. Beware using your advertising images for your editorial images.  Iconic images that are used in adds often saturate the market place. When a reader sees that image in editorial they may think it’s an add and then move on.  Try to keep editorial and advertising images separate.

In a visual news world, images are more important than ever before.  Making sure you have a good relationship with the picture and photo editors of both print and online publications may well keep you ahead of your competitors.

PitchIt2Me has three new workshops in Sydney and Melbourne in March.  Check our website for more details.

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4 Comments

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  1. Please … oh, please PRs … read this!

    • Okay PR, so you send me a release with no image and the invitation to ‘request’. So I’m ready to publish your release, then I have to request, wait for you to send, tell you I can’t use a CMYK Tif and then not hear from you. The moment’s kinda lost.

  2. Great post, Rachael.

    I, too, have wrestled with a 52kb version of DSC_082.jpg, had to guess the caption and then provide a compulsory credit to the tourism board.

    Fun, fun, fun.

    A bigger issue for my own images is that hundreds of my best are on 35mm trannies. Digitising them ain’t no fun.

    Any tips?

  3. Hello Rachael..I tried to sign up to your blog but all it did was try to sign me up. Your (recently engaged) blogs give me a wry smile. Nothing changes but it stays the same.

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