There are nearly a thousand photos posted on Facebook every second. Instagram has more than tripled its users in the last six months (to about 50 million now) and is adding about five million more each week. Ironically, in the same year in which 131-year-old film pioneer Kodak filed for bankruptcy, the use of photography is hotter than ever, with millions of pictures being taken with cell phones, digital cameras and other mobile devices every day.
In the public relations profession, the use of photography remains a staple, and yet so many of us are still amateurs when it comes to taking pictures. This point was driven home with me earlier this month when photographer Angela Marshall spent an hour with us at the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island’s “Boot Camp.” As PR photographs have evolved, we still use the staged “grip and grin” shots, but we’ve had to learn how to “repurpose” both staged and candid photos for inclusion in social media, e-newsletters, blogs, web sites and online news sites. But have we been taking pictures correctly? Didn’t we always believe, for example, that the sun had to be behind us when shooting outdoors? (The opposite is true). Did we know that people in chairs should sit forward with ankles crossed (men, too)? Do we make sure that our subjects’ arms are not placed flat on their side, or ensure that the colors and patterns they wear help deliver the message we want?
I wish Angela had been around 25 years ago to instruct me. There is so much to learn. And her hour-long discussion pointed to a larger lesson: PR professionals need to learn how to take better photos. And we should be teaching these techniques to our students and interns. Pictures are still one of the most effective ways to tell our stories because still images are so important in the world of influencing opinions and actions. Let’s agree to learn how to do it right. Your thoughts?