The Last Picture Show – will the press photocall become a thing of the past ?

Twenty years ago the best way to launch your new product or service was with a nice big press junket. Invite all the trade journos to a swanky city-centre hotel, ply them with booze and a good lunch and unless the MD sank too much Merlot and fell off the podium during his presentation, you were as good as guaranteed an excellent write-up. I even had the pleasure of attending one for a major tobacco company that culminated in the entire press corps boarding Concorde to enjoy a fabulous three-course lunch 50,000 ft over the Bay of Biscay at Mach 2 !   

Press lunch on Concorde ? Definitely a thing of the past !

 But a stunning product reveal with smoke and disco lighting was no use without the ever-present photographers. A major London launch could guarantee a good turnout of  snappers representing trade-journals, agencies, regional press and of course someone from each of the nationals. It didn’t matter how good the write up was, it was the shot of some leggy young beauty adorning your newest creation in next day’s red-tops that caught the punter’s eyes and set the shareholder’s pulses racing. No amount of purple prose could match the vision of a shiny new sports saloon emerging from a lake of dry ice. It was the eye-candy that sold the product – plain and simple – eye-candy created by experienced professional photographers with an  eye for a picture.   

How things have changed. At a recent press launch I  was the only professional photographer in attendance. Over instant coffee and tired danish pastries, a few bored hacks pointed their i-Phones in the general direction of the latest environmentally friendly transport before skulking back to their offices to file their copy. Not a staffer or agency tog in sight – and certainly no-one from the national press. That’s because the ever-dwindling returns offered by the publishing industry are causing many press freelancers to hang up their cameras for good.  National newspapers now regularly pay as little as £50 for a half-page picture, so travelling back and forth across the country for such low returns must inevitably become untenable.  

Facing extinction ? With more cost-cutting by publishers the press pack may soon become a rare sight.

The upshot of all this is that the press launch or photocall without photographers will cease to be the effective media tool it once was.  As anyone in PR knows,  good photography is a vital component in the marketing toolbox. In reality this means that if you want to guarantee some pictorial coverage of your product or brand launch, employing a dedicated professional photographer for the event will become not just important, but essential.  


Footnote:  Don’t rely on the photographer tied to your venue. Whilst frequently perfectly competent, many are only used to shooting consumer events such as weddings and parties and will not be able to offer vital additional services like agency syndication for your pictures.

2 thoughts on “The Last Picture Show – will the press photocall become a thing of the past ?

  1. Chris

    From what I can see now, the only photocalls that get the “press” togs automatically are those that have some C,D… or Z lister attending to pose for the photos. If you don’t have ‘chaz from Eastenders or whoever the latest newsmaker soap star is, the press are less likely to attend and if they do, will the picture be about the product? (more likely it is just for the tog’s library or agency to make a few quid in the glossies).

    So I totally agree with you. If a PR wants press coverage, they should always hire a “house” Photographer with a press background that knows how to combine the product with the personality. They must have contacts and they must be able to syndicate.


  2. Very good blog post Chris. I am photographing an African Queen next Monday. I am there for a friendly client, no fees unless they use it, but a press agency has asked that “As he is there, could he take some pictures of the queen with some of the kids ?

    I can’t believe the press agency has not hired their own togs, ridiculous ! I will of course refuse to do those shots unless I am guaranteed payment !

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