The language of a winning PR photograph
Language is the key method employed by all animals to express how they feel, what they need and who they’d like to mate with.
But without the luxury of written and spoken words, most species have to resort to some rather unsavoury methods such as sniffing one another’s nether regions to decipher and transmit this very primeval language.
Our human languages are complex, rich and varied.
Some of us are even blessed with the ability to speak more than just our mother tongue.
But, just like our animal cousins, we ALL have an innate understanding of some other wonderfully complicated and important types of language.
Subconsciously we react to and use body language all the time showing others how angry we are, how happy we are or perhaps how much we like another person.
Some of us can even tame our animal instincts and control our body language to our advantage.
Body language is communicated mainly with visual cues.
Some say you can smell fear – although I’ve never smelled it myself. And of course, we use the volume and tone of our voices to add extra gravitas or poignancy to what we are already communicating with our bodies. But our body language is best displayed when the light bounces off us and into the eyes of those we are communicating with.
This is where body language becomes visual language. From the earliest cave paintings to the latest computer-animated blockbusters: artists, photographers, and cinematographers have used their ability to harness visual language to get their message across to their audience.
Whether it’s a serene image of a beautiful landscape, a shocking scene of devastation or an intimate portrait, visual language is what makes you understand the message.
PR photographs have to convey a message about your brand to your customers.
Photographers who have mastered visual language, and who also ‘get’ your brand are best equipped to give you the best value for your buck in terms of communicating with your clients.
There are phrases that perhaps you’ll have heard bandied about such as ‘the rule of thirds’ or ‘the golden ratio’. These are simply ways to compose an image to make it balanced and comfortable to look at. Mathematical formulae, if you like, that when used in the construction of any image or photograph, will give it a pleasing aesthetic that is easy-on-the-eye making the work something far more special than merely a quick snap (see my previous blog).
It is from this point in the creation of an image that visual language experts can deploy other weapons from their arsenal to make a truly killer image. The use of light and shade, colour and texture can add meaning and a sense of drama to their image.
The next layer to building up an image is, of course, the subject.
The photographer may use his camera to capture the moment the subject’s body language best illustrates the desired message behind the image. Or he may need to set-up a shot to do this. Simply asking for a smile might be enough. But often a few more subtle adjustments need to be made to get the image ‘shouting’ its message.
Perhaps it’s a shot of a confident business leader that’s needed for a press release. If so, they should perhaps pose in such a way that taps into some base animalistic language – standing tall, well preened, chest-out, looking strong. But I think the photographer should perhaps stop short of photographing any sniffing between the boss’s legs!
…In my next blog I’ll be talking about how to make your PR photography relevant to trending news topics.