Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Horses for courses

I've just had one of those infuriating 'turf' conversations with a photographer about using non-professionally taken pictures in an employee publication.

His view is that corporate mags, like any other media, are fighting for brain-space among readers with a host of other professionally produced magazines and have to demonstrate the same quality that one would expect from a news stand title.

His argument is that if the client is prepared to pay for the words, they should invest in the imagery too.

Fair enough when you have the budget to justify the expense. But internal comms is so much the poor relation that I've found clients prepared to spend ten times their annual internal comms budget on one external ad.

So I'm of the opinion that you need to go for 'horses for courses'. Sure get a professional in for your high impact cover shots and for key news and feature shots within the publication, but be prepared to accept submitted shots and take some of your own where necessary.

However, there has to be a quality threshold - and you'll get far better results if you can give a tip sheet of what's acceptable to potential photographic contributors. While the digital revolution is opening photography to all, the average phone camera shot won't cut the mustard - and not will that 4cm square image saved at 70dpi.

If you can give contributors a style guide with tips on how to compose a technically competent shot and also guidelines on how to save the image in a size and format that gives the page designer scope to use the shot to its best effect, you can probably cut down on 50 per cent of the rubbish you'll be presented with.

In the end there's no substitute for using a professional who's in sympathy with the aims, style and demographic of your publication. But in these days of limited budgets, you can complement the professionals with 'amateur' shots - just be picky and set high standards.

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