“Photographing for the Web”
This is the first of a new monthly feature of BeHeardAustin.com on digital visual communications. If you are interested in contributing a column, or ideas for a column, please contact the editor.
by Ed Lallo/Lallo Photography
Stop! Forget everything you think you know or have been told about using photos to communicating visually! Forget fashionable photo trends with boring acronyms! Forget about slick print brochures and fancy annual reports. The time has come to start effectively communicating visually for your web audiences while increasing both interest as well as all-important SEO -search engine optimization.
The name of the game in corporate photography and visual communications is now SEO. Search engine optimization is designed to raise a site’s ranking and in turn drive readers toward content. Content is king and search engines give sites with fresh content, especially photos and videos, a higher ranking. Original photos and videos do just that, they raise a sites ranking on Google, Bing and other search engines.
Whether you are a PR professional doing a press release, or an internal communicator working on your company internet posts; if you are just adding word after word with no storytelling visuals then you are failing to capitalize on increased exposure and story placement that photos can bring.
Survey after survey of journalists have indicated their greatest need is storytelling visuals. Sending out press release after press release with nothing more than a boring leads does nothing to help solve the problems being faced by journalists today. News holes in printed publications are shrinking, but the infinite information “black hole” of online editions need to be fed 24-hours a day.
Editing two online news sites that constantly beg for information, I know the content is just not there.
Why are journalists seeking storytelling photos and videos to accompany releases? For the same reason you need them on your website and online newsroom, those three little letters – SEO.
Photos for today’s corporate communications need to be shot with web in mind; too many photographers and designers are still trying to live in the days when print was king.
In a recently published article discussed the fashionable trend of shooting digital HDR – high dynamic range imaging – a technique that allows a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of an image.
Creating an HDR image requires a sturdy tripod to capture three-to-five bracketed identically positioned exposures. Using a Photoshop feature, which aligns the images, it then creates an HDR file by using information from each of the bracketed settings to allow for a more accurate intensity level.
Unless you are doing communications for food, architectural or engineering – or have employees that can stand as still as a mannequin — this time-consuming application has little or no practical purpose for day-to-day digital communications.
What does have meaning in the digital era are the principals taught over and over again in photojournalism classes around the world – producing storytelling photos that draw a reader into an article by illustrating the words in a photo.
The web has become a vast mixture of words, photos, videos and ads fighting for a reader’s attention. Communication professionals continuously search for ways to present these zeros and ones in a format that effectively reach the intended audience.
Recently Tom Mattia, chairman of Edelman China and former senior VP for global communications at Coca-Cola, explained the importance technology has on the future of communications, “I rely on the young to help me understand how the technology is changing and what capabilities that gives me,” he said. “In return, I’ll keep reminding them they must have a good, solid story to tell and a definite point of view.”
The same can be applied to photography and visual communications.
According to Grandparents.com, more than 50% of those over the age 65 are now on the internet; that number raises to more than 90% for the young. Storytelling remains the key element of communication. The proliferation of channels makes a single, clear storyline, communicated effectively in text, video and images more important than ever.
With the recent announcement of Time, Inc publications digital editions being sold on the Apple iStore, and Newhouse Newspapers announcing the New Orleans Times-Picayune would publish a print edition only three days a week; news holes in printed publications continue to shrink. In addition corporations and organizations continue to cut back on printed annual reports and marketing material. The future of communications, especially visual, lies in digital.
“Five years ago companies were making less than 10% of their photo assignments for web usage,” said Pat Hugg, director of Getty Images corporate assignment division, a leading creator and distributor of still imagery, video and multimedia products. “Today we are seeing a complete reversal with a majority of assignment being web-use only.”
As print becomes less a priority, web-based photo usage has poised a problem for assignment houses such as Getty, as well as the photographers they represent.
“Clients are starting to place greater importance on having good storytelling photos on their sites,” said Hugg. “It has been a slow process because over the last few years many have been using inexpensive stock photos, or photos shot on their own digital cameras, for their digital photography needs.”
The use of inexpensive stock photos on their digital sites have come back to haunt many companies, especially when they find their competitor using the exact same photo. Likewise, owning a digital camera does not a photographer make. Companies that rely on photos shot by their communications staff find their corporate image a little fuzzy.
Google, Bing and other search engines care little whether photos tell a company’s story, or portray it as out-of-focus; they just pop it out there for the world to see.
Paige Wesley, vice-president of marketing and communications for the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), found her effort to provide photos for an online publication shot on a cell phone gave a pixelated and fuzzy image of the organization when published.
When asked if she would ever use a cell phone again to provide photos to a publication she said, “Absolutely not! This is one of those teachable moments. A journalist I know showed me the error of my ways and convinced me that a decent quality camera was important to visually telling the IABC story. And he gave me tips on taking good photos too. A very valuable lesson!”
Add bad, uninteresting cropping to the list of failures online communicators make. Often photos are simple published without cropping unwanted distractions from the picture. Worse yet, unedited photos that are uploaded to the company Flicker site for the world to see — there is your CEO picking his noise, just the image wanted to portray your company, especially as CEOs face closer scrutiny.
What goes online, stay’s online, even if removed later. Images are easily downloaded, shared or copied. Removing an already published unwanted image from a site has little effect if it is plastered across a variety of social media sites. Are online photos enhancing your corporate reputation, or making it muddy and out-of-focus?
For almost 10-years Jeff Herrington, of Dallas-based Herrington Communications, has successful instructed company after company on the importance of “Writing for the Web”. Now is the time for this same successful approach to be used to instruct communicators on how important storytelling visual communications can be in a successful digital communications strategy – “Photographing for the Web1.0”, upgrades coming shortly.
About the Author:
Ed Lallo’s photographic career has spanned more than four decades. Working as a photojournalist, first for newspapers and later for People Magazine, his photography has been recognized by the National Press Photographers Association, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, UPI and the Associated Press. His corporate work includes annual reports for IBM, DuPont, ExxonMobil, Perot Systems, Imperial Sugar, CenturyTel and the Williams Companies. IABC, PRSA and The Dallas Press Club have all recognized his outstanding corporate photography.
He is also founder and CEO of Newsroom Ink; a company that believes in the power of storytelling brand journalism to create credible, influential news sites and stories for clients that enhance the reputation of both brand and company. It achieves a competitive difference by creating credible and influential news – telling a company’s stories on a dynamic newsroom platform.
Contact Ed at: email@example.com