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Pictures are all the rage these days.

It makes perfect sense. On the internet, we have very short attention spans. Moreover, as a species, we seem hardwired to love pretty things.

Are we really that surprised by the rise of Pinterest, Instagram, etc?

In PR, we’ve always stressed the written word as a baseline tool. I doubt that will ever change. However, more than ever, I think young people coming up in the field should take time to learn about photography. It will give you an edge.

Here are a few things that might help you become a better than novice photographer and get a leg up on the competition for that internship or first job:

  1. Expose yourself to the masters. If Edward Burtynsky has an exhibit in your town, go. If you’re not that lucky, buy some books from your favourite professional photog. Whether it is someone who shoots portraits, landscapes or models matters less. Checking out how the pros manage composition, lighting and other variables is going to help you.
  2. Buy a decent camera and play around with it. If you don’t already have one, go shopping. You’ll need a camera for your clients, organization etc. It has long been a part of the PR toolkit, but is now even more important. View your new toy as an investment.
  3. Take a photography course as an elective in school if you can. Simple. If your course load allows for taking a class or two, make like Nike and just do it. As wiser men than I have suggested, this may be the year that photography becomes the lingua franca  of the web. 
  4. Play up your photography skills when applying for internships, that first job, etc. My sense is that many experienced pros – even those in their 30s – will view newbies with real photography skills differently. Many of us lack in this area and are thinking hard about how we can service clients who are fixated on services like Pinterest.
  5. Build a portfolio and be ready to show it in an interview. Again, the hype around pictures and photo sharing is SO overwhelming right now. By bringing this content to an interview, showing that you’re adept at producing it and subtly demonstrating your understanding of the zeitgeist, you’ll be considered valuable and “on trend.”

There are probably tonnes of things I have missed here. Please add them in the comments.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Lee Elliott says:

    Great advice. We are living in a world that allows us to use images as a communication shorthand in unprecedented ways. I suggest a daily photo shoot practice. Shawna Lemay is one of the best examples of this. Her work is available for purchase on Getty, but her blog gives you the beauty for free. Her lighting is masterful as well.

  • This is advice is really applicable to anyone in our industry. As employers tighten budgets and rely on smaller staffs, it is important to be as well-versed in as many of the components of the field as possible. I was lucky enough to take a photography class at WKU and am thankful for the skills that I learned. Because of that experience, I am now much more confident behind a camera and can communicate more effectively with photographers.

    I document as many things as I can with my camera, even if it is just my iPhone. You never know when you might have to complete a shoot or what your subject will be, so it is good to be prepared and understand how to capture different situations.

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