How to Capture a Great Photo
Office of Communications and Marketing
Photographs representing your program or event add an eye-catching visual element to publicity efforts. Additionally, because a picture is often the first thing a reader notices, you want that picture to make the right kind of impact. Lastly, because Millsaps is vying with every other individual, group, or entity that wants its own picture in the paper, we want to be able to offer editors the most visually interesting images we can. For these reasons, the following guidelines are offered to assist those at Millsaps who may desire a photo opportunity or would like to submit photos to the Office of Public Relations for media dissemination.
- Focus on one or two individuals. Most professional news photographers will politely agree to shoot a large group shot if you request it. However, these shots are very rarely used in print media. Pictures of large groups of people don't usually work well within a newspaper layout. They are also less engaging because you can't see faces of individuals in detail. Group shots also result in large areas of empty space over heads and under feet in the picture, which editors hate. (Empty space isn't what they want to fill their photos with.)
- Think in black and white. The majority of newspaper photography is in black and white. Avoid placing a subject in dark clothing in front of a dark background, and vice versa. Contrasts in color will look better on film.
- Get moving. When taking photographs, think in terms of movement. The suggestion of movement and activity makes a photo more dynamic and interesting. As well, the use of props can lend visual excitement to an image.
- What's in a name? As often as possible, write down the names of everyone pictured in your photograph. Most daily papers will not run a photograph unless every person in it can be identified.
- Closer is better. In almost all cases, a close-up shot is better than one taken from far away. In a close-up, readers can see the nuance of a subject's face, observe their emotion, etc. A close shot will draw more readers in, and that's what every editor wants.
- Shed some light on it. Notice the lighting in your picture. Is your subject half in shadow and half in sunlight? Does direct light from above create significant shadows underneath their eyes? Try to place your subject in a position where the lighting is as even as possible.
- Check the background. As you focus the camera, check the background of the picture to ensure that nothing will distract the viewer from the subject. This includes people as well as objects that appear directly behind the subject.
- Rise above it. If at all possible, avoid shooting any subject from below their eye-level. It is an unflattering angle and tends to make the subject look larger than they actually are. Shooting from slightly above the subject can yield better results, but be careful when photographing women in low-cut outfits.
- Mix it up. It's not necessary for all subjects to be directly facing the camera. For visual interest, have subjects turn their bodies away from the camera and then face the lens. This is a particularly flattering position for larger subjects.