Picture this: Photos lend flag a new dimension

February 26, 2015

By Ed Henninger
Design Elements

Your small weekly is focused intensely on local news, but you made the decision some time ago that teasers (if you use any) just don’t work up there near your nameplate.

Still, you’d like to draw some reader interest to the top of Page One.

Here’s a suggestion: run a local photo adjacent to your nameplate. Better yet, run it behind the nameplate, in the top left corner.

That tiny photo—especially if you trade it out frequently—becomes an element that readers will want to check with every new issue.

Here are some suggestions:

LOCAL, LOCAL, LOCAL: Make sure the scene in the photo is from your area. Running a night shot of the Baltimore skyline isn’t gonna do it.

USE A SCENIC PHOTO: The photo can be a close-up of clover, horses in a field, a mountain ridge, etc.

MAKE IT SEASONAL: The close-up of clover will really be out of date if there’s a foot of snow on the ground.

AVOID PEOPLE SHOTS: Unless, like the bottom example in the illustration with this column, the person in the photo is generic, as “man sailing.” Faces in photos this small are just hard to see. And, remember, these are supposed to be photos that are representative of your area—not a picture taken at an award ceremony or a shot of the winning field goal.

A LANDMARK? Sure, you could use a shot of your county courthouse cupola here. But after four or five issues with the same photo, reader interest wanes.

A BRIEF CAPTION: If you really think it’s necessary, you can place a brief caption below the photo. The emphasis here is on “brief.” You can say “Sailing Lake Bedford,” but let’s not do “Hampton attorney Bob Craig takes time out from a busy workweek to relax while sailing last Wednesday afternoon on Lake Bedford.” Remember, this is a photo that’s supposed to represent your area, not offer details of a specific event.

FEATHER IT: Use your software’s feathering capability to feather the photo’s right edge. This allows it to go behind your nameplate without a hard edge that can obscure some of the lettering in the nameplate.

SHADOW THE NAMEPLATE: Try using a hard white shadow on the nameplate to help it stand off from the photo. In the illustration here, I copied the black nameplate, made it white and then put a soft shadow behind the white copy. Then I moved the original black nameplate to the front. The white-with-shadow look helps give the nameplate better “pop” to separate it from the photo.

A photo in your nameplate tells your readers you’re not the same old newspaper from week to week. You’re different. You’re fresh. You’re local. Test it out. You can make it work. For you—and your readers.

Want a free evaluation of your newspaper’s design? Contact me at edh@henningerconsulting.com or at 803-327-3322.

If this column has been helpful, you may be interested in my books, “Henninger on Design” and “101 Henninger Helpful Hints.” With the help of my books, you’ll have a better idea how to design for your readers. Find out more at www.henningerconsulting.com. © Ed Henninger 2015


ED HENNINGER is an independent newspaper consultant and the director of Henninger Consulting. On the Web: henningerconsulting.com. Phone: 803-327-3322.

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