I'm betting that that 3 out of 4 of you who are reading this don't have a good-quality photo that you could give the media if a reporter called you today.
I check the EzineArticles.com website at least once a week, looking for articles for The Publicity Hound, my subscription newsletter on how to generate free publicity. When I find an article my readers would like, I email the writer and ask for a photo. More times than not, I'm disappointed. Three out of four people have poor-quality photos or none at all.
Writing articles to position yourself as an expert in your field, sell more products and services and pull traffic to your website is admirable. But don't stop there. You need a good-quality above-the-shoulders photo for publishers like me who want to use it online or offline and give you lots of free publicity.
If you're among the 3 out of 4 who don't have one, stop being a media mutt and start acting like a true Publicity Hound. Here are tips on how to get an inexpensive, good-quality photo.
Use a professional photographer
If your cousin has a new digital camera, or a cell phone with a camera, and offers to take your photo to save you money, use a professional instead. Trust me, the expense will be well worth it.
Many of the bad-quality photos I see are too dark, out of focus, grainy, scanned incorrectly, or taken against a busy backdrop--often by amateur photographers. I've seen photos that look as though people have plants growing out of the tops of their heads. One writer gave me a photo that shows him with his eyes closed. A woman gave me a photo of her in a sleeveless blouse, with her bra strap showing.
Some people offer snapshots that show them with friends and family members. Most editors won't bother cropping out babies, husbands or friends. They just won't use your photo.
A standard, above-the-shoulders color photo is the bare minimum. Prices vary from market to market, but you can usually get a professional business portrait for less than $75 from a professional photographer.
To find a photographer in your price range, start with the Yellow Pages. Or ask people you know for recommendations. Even photo studios at places like Sears and J.C. Penney can often produce inexpensive photos that are better than the ones taken by your cousin.
Tips for looking your best
Here are tips to follow if you're having your portrait taken:
--Wear your usual hairstyle. Don't try anything new.
--Make sure your hair is styled the way you want it before you arrive at the studio.
--If you need a haircut, have it done one or two weeks before your photo session.
--Wear clothing appropriate to your profession. If you're a gardener, don't have your photo taken in a suit and tie.
--Avoid high-neck clothing that obscures your neck.
--Avoid sleeveless clothing.
--It's risky to wear prints that draw attention away from your face. When in doubt, be safe with solids (but not black or white).
--When applying make-up, pay special attention to your eyes. That's what people see first.
--Eye shadow adds depth. Avoid iridescent colors. Stick to neutral.
--If you wear glasses, ask your optometrist if you can borrow a pair without lenses. That way there won't be any glare.
--Powder reduces shine and helps eliminate shiny foreheads and noses.
--Be sure to tell your photographer the photos are for publicity so he knows what kind of backdrop to use. And tell him not to use a "soft focus"
lens. Your photo should have sharp tones with good contrast.
--Don't have your photo taken when you have a dark suntan or it will look like your face is oily.
--Don't forget to smile! If you don't, you might come off looking bored or sad.
When I have my photo taken every two or three years, I splurge for a hair and make-up artist who primps me until I look my best, then stays with me during the entire photo shoot. Her fee is about $150, and the results are worth every penny. But you don't need to spend that kind of money if you don't have it. Just follow the tips above and you'll be fine.
Pay for as many shots as you can afford so you have a good selection of images from which to choose. Also, ask the photographer if the photo shoot can include one or two wardrobe changes.
In addition to the head shot, you might also consider a storytelling photo that shows you with "props" related to your event. A toy train collector who will be featured at a train show, for example, might be photographed behind his model train display. Weekly newspapers that don't have photo staffs would welcome these types of photos.
Ordering your photos
Most print and online publications use electronic photos, but some don't. So you should have several wallet-size photos and at least one 4-by-5 print on hand just in case someone asks for it. If you're mailing prints, attach a label to the back of the photo. It should include your name, address, phone number, email address and the year the photo was taken.
Never write on the backs of photos with a pen or felt-tip marker. If you are mailing more than one photo, slip a blank piece of paper between them. Sometimes the pressure of the post office's mailing equipment can cause the back of one picture to rub off onto the front of another.
I advise Publicity Hounds that when sending prints to publications, don't ask editors to return them. It makes you look cheap. Besides, you want to encourage them to keep the photos in their files for use months or even years later.
Make electronic versions available
If you're posting your photo to your website, you can scan it at 72 dots per inch and it will look fine.
But editors who want to use the photos in print publications will need the photo scanned at 300 dots per inch, at the size they want to use the photo or larger. That means you can't take a thumbnail-size headshot, scan it at 300 dots per inch and offer it to an editor who wants to use it at 2-by-3 inches. That editor needs at least a 2-by-3 photo scanned at 300 dpi. So make several sizes available. I make four sizes available scanned at 300 dots per inch. You can see how I offer it to editors by clicking here.
For most flexibility, offer a 4-by-5, color jpg scanned at 300 dpi. Any professional editor or publisher will be able to work with that. Some may use it in black and white, some may make it smaller, and some may lower the resolution.
I suggest you include your photos under a "Media Room" button on your home page so it's easy for editors to find what they're looking for.
And remember to smile!
Joan Stewart, also known as The Publicity Hound, writes a blog at http://www.PublicityHound.net and also publishes "The Publicity Hound's Tips of the Week," a free ezine on how to generate thousands of dollars in free publicity. Subscribe at her website at http://www.PublicityHound.com and receive free the handy checklist "89 Reasons to Send a News Release." She is writing an ebook on how to use photos and graphics in a publicity campaign.