Photography - A guide for PRs

Charles Orton-Jones
Credit: ozgurdonmaz

Images are half the story. A strong lead image draws readers in and sets the tone for the piece.

This short article will help you understand what is required from a lead image (the big one at the top of the story).

In a nutshell, a photo strong enough to work as a lead:

1) Is beautiful to look at

2) Tells a story

3) Invokes an emotion in the viewer

Here's Hollywood photographer Greg Williams on his philosophy. This is under one minute and well worth your time.

Every picture Greg takes meets the above criteria. Beautiful. Narrative. Emotional.

Corporate photography is a little harder than working with actors. The subjects are less photogenic. A little warier about posing. And time short. Nevertheless, there is no excuse for lower standards.

Here are some great examples of a lead photo.

Let's start with Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of Spanx.  The image instantly tells a story. She's bursting with a pride. The audience are engaged, with their eyeline drawing the viewer in.

Here is another image of Sara. The photographer has used a bokeh lens to blur the background. Her jumper is spectacular. Her smile is strong - we can decipher her emotion. She's content but thoughtful. There is a sense of steel in the smile.

Here's Kristjan Kangro, founder of Estonian crypto exchange Change. This potentially dull photo is redeemed by his strong look, confident smile, and monochrome background. He's wearing a corporate t-shirt. It's a simple set-up, but well executed.

Props help. Here's Richard Clark, founder of zero alcohol drinks brand Smashed. Colourful background. Mid laugh. His product - the beer - is well placed. The lighting is terrific. Boom. Job done. This may have been taken on a smartphone. Still works.

Even simple props can transform a subject. Here's Greg Williams' portrait of Spiderman actor Tom Holland. Bubblegum transforms the shot. Look at his hands. He's mid-action. Photographers often bore their subjects, who slump and wait for the shutter, thereby sucking the energy out of the image. Greg chats and jokes with his subjects to elicit a response. His subjects are always interacting with something. Great lighting too.

Okay. Now let's focus on what not to do.

We do not want boring headshots for lead images. These are okay at the end of an article to accompany the byline. Not as a lead.

Ask yourself this:

  • Does the subject exhibit an emotion, or are they bored and waiting for the shutter to go click?
  • Is the photo well lit and in focus?
  • Is the background simple and clear, or cluttered and distracting?
  • Will the image work in a large, landscape crop?


We crop to 970px horizontal by 693px vertical. This means the image is horizontal. Vertical images don't work as lead images unless we crop them to fit.

NB: BizAge can do the cropping.

How to commission

It is worthwhile to hire a photographer. Budget £350 to £500. The images will last a couple of years and transform your public image.


a) A mixture of portrait and landscape.

b) What emotion you want to convey. Ambitious? Smug? Pensive? Get a range. You may need an image to accompany a corporate apology. Make sure you have images that cover all scenarios.

c) What props? You'll want shots with the product in centre stage. And some without.

d) Tell the photographer some of the images will be used large scale.

e) Be assertive on the aesthetics. Do you mind a cluttered background (yes, you do). Do you a boring headshot? (no, you don't).

f) Give the photographer free reign to be creative. They'll come to a corporate gig with a mindset that you want a LinkedIn headshot. Correct them of this notion.


Images are vital. They tell the reader what sort of company they are reading about. Fun and exuberant? Energetic and proud? Or...bored with their own thoughts.

Let's be blunt. Most marketing teams and PRs don't think about images. We estimate only one in ten agencies we deal with have mastered the issue. Some are stunned to even be asked for images - as though it's a novel request.

In the smartphone era there is no excuse for sub-standard images. If a teenager year old with a Samsung Galaxy S8 can take great images, so can companies equipped with fully staffed marketing departments.

Ten minutes with a smartphone is more than enough.

Ask yourself this. Would Sir Richard Branson be impressed by your images?

At Business Age we are ready to publish your amazing images. Let's see what you've got.

ps, If you are still stuck we recommend Greg Williams' full course. Nine short lessons. Online. Worth every penny

Written by
Charles Orton-Jones
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