It took five seconds to capture this image of a new Downtown Oak Park business, Sleepy’s, for eventual use by the Oak Leaves. (Inside Edge PR photo)

In journalism, “sure shot” is a term that I first encountered as a young newspaper reporter. It’s the practice of taking a simple photo, or set of photos, while on the scene of a story.

Whether it is a building fire or a feature profile of a baseball card shop owner, the idea is for the reporter to secure images just in case a bona fide photographer is not able to do so.

Before digital cameras and smart phones, there was some work to be done after taking the sure shot, so I would wait and see if my photos were even necessary before getting them developed.

Today, it requires no technical skill to take a photo and then have it online in a matter of moments. For most of modern media history, the ability to capture an image one moment and to transmit it globally the next was not available to the most sophisticated of news networks. Now just about anyone with a smart phone or similar digital device can get an image (along with audio and video) and share it to the far reaches of the planet–almost in real time.

A Story-Teller’s Tool Box Must Include `Sure Shot Photography’

The implications for event planning, production and content dissemination are enormous. On the PR and marketing front in Chicagoland, putting this technological ability in the hands of those without any professional photography experience is not ideal. There is a difference between any old image that you can get and capturing high-quality images that captivate your audience and advance a story.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. In a practical sense, in light of the reality that there is often not enough money (for the media or clients) to retain a professional photographer, it is an absolute “must” for any story-teller to add “sure shot photography” to his or her repertoire. Doing so would also mean that they do better than getting “any old image.”

Photos enhance the likelihood of media coverage, period. And really good photos can heighten the prominence of that coverage, elevating an otherwise-average story to front-page status. So it serves you, and your client, to shoot plenty of photos—out of that quantity, some quality is bound to flow.

A Media Outlet’s Over-Reliance on Google Images

How pressing is the need for sure shots? One case in point: on July 11th, the Oak Leaves in Oak Park, just west of Chicago, used a Google Images photo to accompany the story of a grocery store’s abrupt closure.

That’s right: they snagged the image off of Google Images. Some may call that lazy; others may view it as resourceful. Regardless, the media outlet’s reliance on Google Images illustrates their limited ability, or perhaps willingness, to take photos of their own when they know they have other alternatives.

Such a void ought to whet the appetite of any public relations and marketing professional. More than ever, we can be the ones stepping up and providing that alternative resource for the media. Yet, astonishingly, PR professionals routinely drop the ball when it comes to taking this simple step.

Why is that? Much of it can be boiled down to two mistaken notions–which we will explore in the next blog post.

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