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Winning The Day

Focus on
the Photo Shoot


August 16, 2011

Q. You’ve given advice about how to do a media interview, but what about a photo shoot? Newsweek caught Michele Bachmann in a pose that makes her look like a fanatic and it ran on the cover. My head would be on the chopping block if this happened to my boss, who is an elected official with aspirations for higher office.

A. Newsweek chose New York City celebrity photographer Chris Buck for the assignment because of his style. His website portfolio shows celebrities and newsmakers in unorthodox poses. Newsweek’s angle was intensity, and Buck delivered that look. Newsweek Editor in Chief Tina Brown states, “Michele Bachmann’s intensity is galvanizing voters in Iowa right now and Newsweek’s cover captures that.”

The photo also has created a great deal of buzz in print, broadcast and social media. Her supporters are outraged; her detractors are delighted. Newsweek is thrilled, we’re sure. If there’s one thing the media like, it’s controversy — and Buck’s photo delivered on that, too.

The old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is relevant here. All the talk is about the photo; we haven’t heard anybody discuss the article. That being the case, the photo shoot is as important, if not more, than the interview your boss does for the article.

Keep these things in mind:

  • All photos are “on the record” even if the photographer says she or he is “just checking the lighting.” If the camera is clicking, be on your toes and look your best. There’s been some talk that the photo than ran on the cover was taken during a lighting check and Bachmann wasn’t aware that the photo shoot had begun.
  • Research the photographer’s style and look at her or his portfolio. This will help you avoid any traps that might be laid to get an unflattering shot.
  • Be proactive and helpful. Many times the photographer has no idea about the photo until she or he arrives, so be prepared to suggest a couple ideas for background and poses that will be the most flattering.
  • Your appearance is a big part of a good photograph. Dress in colors that photograph well and are flattering. Deep, saturated colors — like navy, royal blue, dark green, burgundy — photograph best. Get a haircut if you are a man and, if you are a woman, pay attention to your hair and makeup.
  • Determine ahead of time what you will agree to. Will you agree to a pose talking on the phone or do you want something more original? Will you agree to go outside if it’s windy and hair will be windblown? Will you agree to a photograph with a staff person who is wearing a low-cut blouse? Will you agree to a photo with feet on the desk?
  • Remember that the photographer has ears as well as eyes. What is said in her or his presence is on the record and can easily make it back to the story reporter or editor. Avoid off the cuff remarks while the photographer is within earshot.

Bachmann’s photo will be remembered long after anything she said in the article, so the lesson learned here is: spend as much time preparing for the photo shoot as you do for the media interview.


Paula Blanchard Stone and Patty McCarthy are partners in McCarthy  Blanchard, an executive training firm specializing in key message development, presentation skills training, media interview training and executive presence. Copyright © 2008 McCarthy Blanchard. | Website

August 16, 2011 · Filed under Winning The Day Tags: , ,

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