Case study: Press portrait.

For this week I thought I’d dig out something from the archive; a portrait photo taken with press use in mind to help illustrate the difference between this and a straight headshot.

In fact the photo here was commissioned by the News of the World for a business page article back in 2001. Nothing dodgy (for once), just a straight-up business story about Fulton Umbrellas‘ founder Arnold Fulton.

Press Portrait Arnold Fulton of Fulton Umbrellas

He's not Rihanna, but he's got umbrella ella ellas.

He was utterly charming, patient and engaging. He told me it’s ok to open an umbrella indoors provided you don’t lift it over your head, so putting my superstitions to one side I got on with opening a selection of umbrellas in the factory’s demonstration/sales room ready for the shot while Mr Fulton was being interviewed.

When you’re thinking about having pictures taken with a view to press coverage, you might be lucky and find that a newspaper wants to cover your story and they might send their own photographer to take pictures to go with the article. However, if you’re putting an article together and need pictures to send out to press, it’s worth keeping in mind that a straight headshot of the CEO (or whoever is quoted in the article) may not be enough.

Think about using elements of your business in the photo, even if you’re not dealing with physical goods. Sometimes a physical prop can be a metaphor for the service you offer, so don’t think that just because you sell pensions or insurance that there isn’t something to illustrate this.

My point being, think around your business and the story to see what might suit what you’re writing about. I’m happy (as any decent photographer should be) to discuss ideas with you. Don’t just dig out a portrait taken with the company logo in the background and assume it’ll get used. And even if it does get used, most people will ignore it as “just another headshot.” Far better to have a shot which helps illustrate the story. It will reinforce the point of the article, and most importantly of all, more people will read it.

As for Arnold Fulton, he insisted every visitor to his factory takes home an umbrella, so I chose a storm-proof golfing model which is still going strong today, which might explain why I’ve enjoyed the return of the rain even more than most people.

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6 comments

  • Ken of London May 10, 2011   Reply →

    Wow this is weird, I have just been in a discussion here at work to try and get them to understand the creative process and how important it is to the overall image to the the business.

    Why would you go through a sustained period of upheaval, potential poverty and sleepless nights to expand, modernise and improve your business, to then be mostly dismissive to the process that will inform current and potential clients of all these efforts you have been going through.

    I can always pick a business that is a true business, all facets of the running and promoting the business are given prime slot at the appropriate stage and energies focused on getting the the task completed well. The owner will have pet areas for sure but knows that success comes from all angles.

    • Glass Eye May 10, 2011   Reply →

      To the likes of us, these things are obvious. I can understand how a business manager might just think it’s another drain on the bottom line, but the fact is if you can get a press release with a decent picture into the press, that’s free advertising. Plus you can think of other ways to use the photo (web, e-newsletter).

      Keep making the case!

  • Tom May 11, 2011   Reply →

    Great article as always Tim.

    Although I’m an in-house photographer and have to photograph the bosses from time to time, I always try and take alternatives to the standard “Pass Pic”
    Nothing more boring in my mind than a bog standard head and shoulders.

    Keep up the great work.

    • Glass Eye May 11, 2011   Reply →

      Tom, thank you for your kind comments. Much appreciated!

      I wonder, do you get much resistance to the “alternative” shots? Are you expected just to snap a quick headshot and be done? You’re right though. A few more moments to get something other than the bog-standard headshot will result in pictures which have much wider uses and far longer shelf-life.

      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  • cynthia o'connor May 19, 2011   Reply →

    Really great article. You never cease to amaze me, inspire me and teach me!! I will look forward to returning to my photography career after this hiatus and be so better equipped and ready to leap!!

    • Glass Eye May 19, 2011   Reply →

      Hello Cynthia! I really don’t deserve such high praise! I just waffle on and hope people understand. But thank you most kindly. I hope your hiatus gets better soon 😉

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