Author Archives: Zeke Barlow

How to compose a photo to get your message across

If the cliché that a picture is worth 1,000 words is true, what is your picture saying?

Is it saying that someone has a telephone pole sticking out of her head? That your subject seems to have his eyes closed a lot? That your subject turns away from people when she is talking to them? Or that he doesn’t have any hands?

Chances are that none of these is the message you want to convey when you are snapping a photo, but often times that’s what they say. By spending just a few moments thinking of one of the most important subjects of photography — composition — we can turn even the most humdrum image into something visually appealing.

Before you start to shoot…

Look around the room and the area in which you are going to shoot. What is in the image? Do you want that trashcan in your photo? Or that car? What about the water bottle? Remember that everything in a photo is another piece of information for the viewer, so select what information you do – or don’t – want to convey. Too much clutter in the background distracts folks from the image you want them to focus on.

What is that coming out of your head?

Much like you look around the room to see what is in your image, make sure there are no odd looking shapes behind your subject. It not only distracts from the image, but a poorly positioned phone pole can look downright ghoulish. Simply moving a few feet to the side may solve this problem. Likewise, be sure not to cut off any body parts that make a person look odd.

Action! Or not…

If you are trying to show that your program is fun and engaging and hands-on, then why is everyone sitting down or just standing in a straight line looking at the camera? This is a chance to take good action shots to show your folks doing something. A bad action shot can be more interesting than a good grip-and-grin. You have to take a lot more of them to get one that works, but the pay-off is worth it.

Bend your knees!

Look for interesting angles to shoot from. Try from down low. Or up high. Or put the camera over your head and shoot blindly. The most boring thing you can do is to take a photo from exactly the same perspective all the time.

Be in control

If you are setting up a shot to illustrate a program, you have complete artistic license to manipulate the shot. Don’t like the way that person is sitting? Ask them to move! Think it would be better in a different part of the room? Ask them to move! The key is that you are the artistic director, which means you have to direct people to get what you want.

Back of your head

It is hard to emotionally connect to the back of someone’s head. So get in front of the people and make sure you can see their eyes and faces – it will make for a much more engaging, interactive shot.

Take lots of shots

The beauty of digital photography is that you can take an inordinate amount of images, so don’t be shy with your shutter finger. You can literally take 100 shots and only get one or two good ones. And always, always, always review your shots at the moment to see if you have what you are looking for.

And have fun!

Photography is an art and a very approachable one at that. So have fun with it, mix it up, and try new things. You’ll like what you see!

Posted in Photography | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Tell the world about your upcoming Extension event

So you and your Extension planning committee have met many, many times to go over the logistics of your upcoming event.

You know who will staff the event, what time you need to be there and have even figured out what kind of potato chips you’re going to serve.

And then, the week before, you call the Office of Communications and Marketing to ask if we can put out a news release about the event. Sadly, that is too late.

In order for our office to do the best job we can to promote your event, we need to be brought into the conversation long before said potato chips are planned.

Our office is working on about 200 different jobs at any given time, so we need to plan ahead in order to accommodate so many different tasks.

Another reason for this is once we submit a story to VT News, it can take a week or longer to get it out to in the Daily Email (which is sent to the local media outlets).

This is the best process go through to ensure we can help you publicize your event:

  • Specialist or agent drafts a news release describing the event, its target audience, and its logistical information such as time, location, registration details, etc.
  • Draft release should be submitted via the online project request system at least six to eight weeks prior to registration deadline.
  • Communications and Marketing will review and edit the release and return to faculty member for final approval.
  • After final approval, Communications and Marketing will forward the release to the VT News Bureau for distribution and publication on the Web.

If another state agency is the lead agency for an event, we will defer to that agency to do the release.

For other guidelines on having a release written on awards, new programs, or research papers, visit our news and publicity guidelines page.

We look forward to telling the world about your good news!

Posted in Marketing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

How to tell the world about your exciting discovery

Good news! The findings from the research you have been working on for years have been accepted for publication by a major journal!

What now?

Get in touch with Office of Communications and Marketing. And the sooner the better.

By working with us, we can increase the profile of your work both within Virginia Tech and in the outside world, help you fill in some important blanks in your eFARS report, appease your external funding sources, and potentially pull in new streams of revenue.

So how do you do it?

Chances are, you know that your article is going to be published months ahead of time. This is the moment when you should get in touch with our office.

Our standing joke is that if you call us and tell us that you are going to be on the cover of “Nature” tomorrow, we’ll tell you congratulations. But if you tell us a month before, we’ll tell you that we can try to get you some high-impact media coverage.

The advantages of letting our office know early are many.

First off, we are working on many different releases and publications at once, so we can’t drop everything for a last-minute request.

Continue reading

Posted in Communications, Marketing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

What makes a good video?

What does every director yell when they want to start filming? “Action!” Notice that they don’t say, “Stand there and talk into the camera!” or “Do nothing!”

The director yells “Action” because that is what makes a good video, be it three minutes or three hours. So when you want to make a video or have one made, start thinking about the action first. Put yourself in the viewer’s seat and think about what they will see. A good three-minute video requires about 20 different, engaging shots.

If you are doing research on cows, that means you need shots of cows in the field, in the barn, researchers interacting with the cows, researchers taking samples from the cows, researchers back in the lab conducting experiments.

If you are doing a story on a program that teaches young kids a skill, you need to show people interacting with the kids, showing them how to do projects, the expression of kids’ faces as they get excited, and the high-five when the project is completed.

There is a strong likelihood that someone will need to be interviewed about what is going on in the video and giving some details about the project, but this can be done in voiceover or interviews. The person only needs to be on camera for a short time. This is a good example: Jamie is telling you details about the program, but the video is showing the details of the program. Continue reading

Posted in Multimedia | Tagged | 1 Comment