Photography - A guide for PRs

Charles Orton-Jones
Credit: ozgurdonmaz

Your piece for Business Age will need a lead image. This is the big image at the top.

We need something which really sets up the story. Not a headshot. A genuine Lead Image. This guide is to help you provide one.

Images are half the story

The Lead Image is the first thing a reader sees. It sets the tone for the article. A great PR will ensure their client will have amazing images. This short guide is designed to ensure you deliver maximum results for your client.

So what are we looking for?

A truly great lead image:

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.

This is a simple shot of a fintech CEO. It works. It's SO much more interesting than a corporate headshot. He's relaxed, smiling, the background is natural. The photographer brought a full lighting rig - hence the good skin tones, but it's worth it.

Here's 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. There's emotion and narrative.

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.

We do not want images where the subject is passively waiting for the shutter to go click.

Please ask yourselves these questions:

  • Does the subject exhibit an emotion that tells a story, or are they bored?
  • Does the image tell a story?
  • 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?

Here's an example of how simple it can be. The subject is creative consultant for restaurants. So the background is artistic and suitable for the theme. His pose is contemplative and intense. The piece beings "Being French, I'm a massive foodie..." and this image captures his gallic culinary aesthetic. The framing is ideal for 3:2 cropping. The result is superb.

Youri Michel portrait


We crop to 970px horizontal by 693px vertical. This means the image is horizontal and approximately 3:2 ratio. Vertical images don't work as lead images unless we crop them to fit.

NB: BizAge can do the cropping. But we are very grateful if PRs are able to send two images: one 970x693 pixels. And the second a 130x130 pixel crop. This is for the mobile version of our website. Yes, both images can be the same, just different dimensions.


As Greg Williams points out, you can use a smartphone. Seriously. They are more than good enough. A creative PR with an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy can produce magazine quality photos without lighting or reflectors.

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.

BE VERY SPECIFIC! Tell the photographer:

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) How the images will be used.

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. Tell the no. Give them clear instructions to imaginative!

Stock images

Don't have relevant pics? Then find a stock image. We subscribe to Send us the link of the pic you like. Please avoid stiff stock images, or ones with very literal graphics imposed on the top. We prefer beautiful to relevant - readers do too.


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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