“Publicity is absolutely critical. A good PR story is infinitely more effective than a front page ad.”
~ Richard Branson
As animal breeders there’s nothing quite so fun as having a nice article about our farm or ranch appear in our local paper. It’s a great kick, and a boost as well for our breeding operation.
But after years of working on PR campaigns with breeders and countless seminars where I have stressed the importance of having the ears up in your images, I am still amazed at the poor quality of many of the photos that are published. Usually the ears are back and the animals look unhappy or mad or simply bored.
Since a picture really is worth a thousand words, guess what? All the good PR in the text goes right out the window.
Here’s a good example.
So what to do?
Well first off remind yourself that you are ahead of the game because you already know how to make a good PR photograph, and hopefully if you don’t, you are reading my book!
Ok. Check. You’ve read the book. You know how to make great animal images and you only use the best ones for your web page and ads. Your photography has honed your eye so that you see things differently. You now notice all the little faults that add up to a poor image, and conversely you recognize a good image when you see one.
Good. You’ve got the knowledge to make that part of your ad campaign work.
But tomorrow the local paper is coming out to do a story on your ranch and they are bringing along their local photographer. Yikes! Time to figure out how to make sure those pictures turn out. That’s right…you have to take control to be sure the photographer gets a good image. Don’t rely on their expertise, because most photographers have no expertise at all when it comes to photographing animals.
It’s not their fault. The photographer may have never seen a llama or alpaca before. He or she may never have taken an animal photograph that works…they know the techniques for producing a good people image, but they don’t know how to deal with animals.
But you do. You know that animal photography is a specialty and you’ve studied hard to get to the point where you can produce consistently good images. You know your animals habits and temperaments. You know what time of day they are most alert and happy. You know how to capture their personality with your camera. You get it.
So before that all important visit from the paper, pick a calm friendly animal for the photo shoot and make sure the animal is well groomed. You wouldn’t have your photograph taken without combing your hair would you? If heavy grooming is required, make sure it is done the day before the photo session so the animal isn’t stressed.
When the photographer arrives, it’s time to go into super helpful mode and explain that llamas and alpacas are friendly animals that need to have their ears up to show that. Offer to help by being their assistant. Then get out your prop bag and stand right behind the photographer so you can get to work on those ears. As the assistant, you are now using all the photographic knowledge you have learned from your own camera work to help achieve a good result.
This is one of my favorites because the message is clear. Llamas are fun. They can be handled by very small children. They don’t spook when that child is carying around her cat. All the messages in this image are positive.
Hopefully, the shoot goes well. But if it doesn’t, there is a way to help the photographer save face and come up with a good image to use with the text. Pull out your files, and find a good image to give to the paper to use with the text. This is where all your hard work learning the skills of great animal photography will pay off.
Remember this photo above? Take another look and compare it with this one.
See if you can make some great images to keep on file for your PR needs.