Photos and Copyright


Photographs are an important way to document and publicize a subject. Although the mechanics of submitting photographs to publications have changed in the digital age, the four principles of gaining photo coverage in connection with a press release or as stand-alone coverage of an event remain the same:

1. The image must be animated, compelling, and professional in quality.

2. The caption and photo headline must concisely and accurately convey the five W’s (who, what, where, when, and why).

3. A photo credit must identify the copyright holder of the photograph.

4. The photo should be sent in the publication’s preferred digital format and file size, which should be verified before sending. Many publications run photos supplied by public relations offices if the photosmeet certain standards of professional quality.

Whenever possible, you should hire a professional photographer and not attempt to use your own snapshot or one taken by another amateur. If you send an interesting, high-quality digital photograph with your news release, there is a good chance the editor will decide to run it with the story, giving your story bigger play. At most publications, it is rare that an editor will assign a staff photographer to shoot photographs to accompany a story generated by a press release. Because readers are more likely to look at photos than read text, you should always be considering newsworthy photo opportunities that tell a story. Dignitaries, celebrities, and public officials are usually considered newsworthy by the trade and consumer press. Photos of senior management such as presidents and key executive officers are often considered newsworthy by the trade press.

Except for product photos, which are primarily static shots, photos featuring people in action are always more interesting than posed shots. Think of ways to bring the action and intensity of a sports shot to other types of stories.

Photo Captions

The subjects in photos should always be identified and described in a caption included in both the digital photo file and the cover e-mail. A photo caption is best written in the present tense and active voice. Choose one verb that best explains the action and circumstance in the photo and state the basic five W’s.

Headlines for Photo Captions

Photo captions that are stand-alone art—meaning they do not accompany a story—usually carry a headline. When a photo is used to accompany a story, a headline is not necessary.

Groups of people shown in photos are usually identified in order from left to right. If the names in a caption need titles as well, use semicolons to separate the subjects in the list:

Pictured from left are board members being sworn in:

John Smith, vice-president, marketing; Bill Anderson,

treasurer; Charlotte Brown, public relations director.

Photo Credit and Copyright

Each digital photo file and cover e-mail should include a photo credit that identifies the copyright holder. The photo is usually credited to the photographer, who retains any rights to the photograph for which you do not specifically negotiate and pay. Some organizations such as a movie studio doing a publicity shoot will pay for full buy-outs of rights, and then the photo credit reads, for example, ‘‘Warner Bros.’’ Accurate records of copyright should be kept for all photos to avoid an inadvertent reuse in the future that violates the signed agreement with the photographer.

Submission of Photographs

Most publications want photographs submitted as a digital file with a cover e-mail that includes a copy of the caption covering the five W’s. The e-mail should also include your full name, the organization, and all contact information, including alternate numbers. Although preferred formats vary, most publications want to receive photographs as digital files, so that the time-consuming scanning process is already done and the photograph is ready to be sized and cropped to fit their needs.

The Associated Press, for example, advises starting with an image of about ten inches in

the longest dimension (think of the old standard of an eightby ten-inch photo). The image should be scanned at about 200 dpi (and no more than 300) and saved as a JPEG file of about 1megabyte. The caption and photo credit should be included in the JPEG file.



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