17 Feb 2017

What Makes a Good Press Photograph?

A good press shot has to be nice and clean, and doesn’t always necessarily need to have the client’s brand in shot, as some of the following images demonstrate. 

Over years of experience I’ve learned that some pictures just happen right in front of you, while some need to be created. Sometimes I only have a few minutes to ‘see’ or create a shot, for instance if I’m photographing Prince Charles I can’t very well ask him to repeat a certain handshake. Part of getting good press pictures is being able to think quickly – I’m sometimes moving between two or three jobs in the same couple of hours so spending more than 20 years as first a press photographer and then a commercial photographer was good basic training.

When I photographed the Santa Run at Central Square in Middlesbrough I was high above the crowd and asked them to come forward so I could crop in tight and create a close shot with lots of cheery red and white making the picture very appealing to the media, particularly at Christmas.

When Redcar and Cleveland Council asked me to photograph County Durham artist and former steel fabricator Ray Lonsdale at the official unveiling of his weathered steel installation at the new £3.5m South Bank Eco Village I was pleased to see a great picture opportunity as the ‘Blank Canvas’ piece was in the form of two men holding a slab of steel between them. The artwork made an ideal bench that, shot from low down, created a very pleasing shape against the sky. The picture had much more punch than a group of dignitaries lined up and obviously appealed to press including the Middlesbrough Evening Gazette and Darlington's Northern Echo, and also appeared across online media such as Flickr and Pinterest and even on Ray Lonsdale’s own Facebook page.  If you haven’t seen Ray’s work do look him up – he is receiving increasing artistic acclaim and he’s also the creator of the now iconic WWI ‘Tommy’ statue that stands in Seaham, County Durham.

The Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge over the River Tees is the longest working transporter bridge in the world, and this picture was taken at the opening of the new Tees Transporter Bridge Visitor Experience Project in November 2015. Artist Mackenzie Thorpe is very engaging subject, and usually attracts lots of interest from the media. First job was go up in the new glass viewing lift to get some shots of Mackenzie against some panoramic views, before descending to cover the official opening of the car barrier. My suggestion that he stood in front of the barrier and appeared to push it to form a frame for the picture worked well shot with a wide angle lens, and fitted with the ‘opening’ theme and the forward-thinking approach of Middlesbrough Council.

You might recognise Jason Bradbury from his time on the Channel 5 Gadget Show, and I took this cool photograph of him for the Tees Valley ‘Get your head into digital’ campaign launch in Middlesbrough. To create a fresh, original shot I asked Jason to take a selfie with his iPad and turn the screen towards me, so I could create a shot of the two halves of his face, one real and one on the screen.  Jason declared the results to be ‘awesome’ and liked my tweet about the picture, which was retweeted loads of times. 

To sum up what makes a good press picture I’d say it must tell a story in one shot, be different, get creative, and include some real energy. Sounds simple? I’ve been doing this job for two decades and I’m always learning something new every day!  

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