Photography: 101

Tonight I'm going to discuss briefly what makes a decent campaign or news article photo.

First off all, I would suggest having the photo taken by a professional. You will save a lot of wasted energy if you have someone who knows what they're doing actually behind the camera. If it's important to you that you come across as electable or believable, then it's probably worth the $25 it'll cost you to get a decent photo.

You next need to decide what you want the photo to accomplish. A headshot will give you face recognition to go along with your message, an "action" photo will lend more to the story that you are trying to tell. An example of an action photo would be talking to a farmer or sitting on the edge of your desk with your shirt sleeves rolled up. It tells an extra 1,000 words about who we are, or who we are trying to portray.

Headshots are safer. There's less risk in a simple photo of the candidate from the shoulders up, so I'll cover those first.

NO GLAMOUR SHOTS!!! Any of the funky fuzzy edges or soft-focus that looks good in an 8x10 on your desk translates into either indeciperhable murk or soft-porn when viewed as a 1 column photo in the newspaper. Simple in-focus photos suffice nicely.

Keep in mind your constituency. If the people you want to vote for you wear suits, you'd better wear a suit. Looking nice tends to pay dividends. Taking a chance on a polo shirt or an open collar is risk you probably don't need. Haircuts should be the same as most of the people at the local coffee shop.

Get some contrast. Your suit or shirt should contrast with the background when viewed in black and white. You will risk looking like a head floating in a black hole otherwise.

Print the photo in black and white to include with the press kit. Your contrast and lighting balance will be less chancy if you start with the exact photo you want to duplicate rather than going from color to black and white.

Action photos. These typically are used in conjunction with a direct-mail piece or advertising. At least the ones you want out are, the bad photos of you with your mouth at an odd angle while speaking tend to have the half-life of plutonium.

Some simple rules to follow are:
1. Define the message in writing and make sure that all the photos are telling the same story. Get many opinions on the photos.
2. Watch the background. Things sometimes end up sticking out of your head or showing up in the background that you never expect or see when you're looking at a photo. When it's in print it's too late.
3. Make sure that when printed the actual size it still is viewable and not just on the computer screen.
4. If you don't already know these rules, don't do any Photoshopping yourself. Trust me, you're not good enough and it will look stupid.
5. The highest viewing percentages come from photos of children and animals. That's not really a rule, but you still need people to see your message before they read it. I guess the rule might be "keep it interesting".



Anonymous said…
PP had a good post about photos awhile back. It had a man with his hands folded in front of him that looked like he was doing something related to soft core porn.

I guess what I'd add or reiterate from PP's post, is that if you're taking a photo with a group of people - for a photo op at a local ribbon cutting or whatever - keep your hands at your side if you have nothing else to do with them.

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