Competition for editorial space and time is always high with one important exception – good visuals.
A good photo or illustration draws attention to the article. Editors need high-quality visuals to break up the text and help tell stories. Announcements with good visuals often get more space and are displayed more prominently than articles with just text.
In short, a good visual significantly increases the chances your written material will be used and your story will get covered.
Yet many people spend more time dotting the “I’s” and crossing the “t’s” in their copy than they do working on effective illustrations. How can you develop good visuals? Here are some tips.
Keep samples of good visuals. Analyze what makes them special. Review them when you’re trying to get ideas. Share the samples with your photographer or graphic artist.
Be clear about your message. What do you want the visual to “say?” Write out your message. Remember: a publicity visual is not great art. It is simply designed to get attention and tell a story.
Sketch what you want the final visual to look like. How can you illustrate your story? What are the benefits of your product or service? Put these in the sketch.
Tips for Photographs
If you’re taking a photograph yourself, make sure to get a high-resolution photo (preferably 300 dpi or more) if your target is a print publication. If you’re preparing the visuals for online, a lower-resolution photo is preferred, around 100 dpi.
Try different approaches, angles and colors. If size is important, include a measure of comparison. I remember a photograph of a desert flower with the head of a pin next to it. The photograph had been magnified significantly, and I really understood how tiny that flower was because of the size of the pinhead. I saw that picture more than 20 years ago, but still remember it because the contrast was so dramatic.
Check backgrounds. Check to make sure nothing in the background will distract people from the visual. Does a light fixture look as if it’s coming out of someone’s head?
Don’t laugh; that type of thing happens. I recently saw a photo of an industry “guru” standing in the power position, arms folded in front. Unfortunately, he was standing next to some trash, which definitely did not help him look sophisticated and polished.
If possible, include a person. People relate better to pictures with people in them.
Have any “unpaid models,” including your co-workers, sign a release giving you the rights to use their images. You can find model release forms online. One source is Better Photo.com.
Allow room for cropping. Get close to the subject, but leave enough room to remove extraneous material later. Cropping can dramatically improve a photograph’s impact.
When submitting a photo, include a caption. Write one to three sentences describing what is happening in the visual, even if it seems obvious to you. Write it in present tense. For example, a photograph of Julia Roberts could have this caption: “Julia Roberts, one of America’s highest paid actors, is also a ‘working mother.’”
Make the visuals available in several ways. Post high-resolution visuals in different sizes on your Web site. The most popular formats are jpeg and gif. Only e-mail photos if you are certain the recipient wants it, and if you know the desired format and size.
Good visuals can increase your chances for publicity and make your online presence much more effective. Give them the attention they deserve.