Do’s And Don’ts Of Newspaper Photography

By Fr. Michael Prokurat

Photographs are an important part of our efforts to publicize what parishes are doing. Here are some suggestions for using them to their best advantage.

WHAT KIND OF FILM? (Use standard size prints.)

1st preference: black and white
2nd preference: color (don’t get fooled in your contrasts)
3rd preference: Polaroid (frequently does not print)


Except for the occasional artistic photo which can stand on its own, the purpose of a newspaper photo is to get the reader to read the accompanying article. Therefore, each photo should have an interesting ACTION theme. (The purpose of the photo is not to make someone happy that he has gotten his picture in the newspaper. )

Both small and large posed-group “face on” pictures, though standard fare in many places, are usually boring for newspaper use. The theme of a newspaper picture should usually be people doing something which relates to the content of the article. If you plan well, the picture might even tell a story which supports the story line of the article.


Newspaper pictures need -to be clear with a few to several distinct subjects. Uncluttered backgrounds are important to insure good black and white contrast (even if it is color¬óbecause the newspaper is printed in black and white). Avoid “dark blobs” which frequently occur when too many people in dark clothing (like clergy) stand close together. Remember that a colored photo subject for a newspaper photo is just another shade of grey when the paper is printed.


Pictures of people doing something are always more interesting than pictures of things. If you absolutely have to have a picture of a “thing”, put some people into it doing something with the “thing”. Three people or so in an uncluttered frame is about the most that will print in a newspaper with any identifiability. Crowds are good for background at events, but they are not the picture-event in capsule form.

Three persons is the maximum for a standard size newspaper shot. A picture of more than three people would necessitate a larger print, which would have to be arranged with the editor beforehand. Avoid single-subject (one person) shots, unless the individual is an athlete performing. Including props in with the people, or “setting the stage” for a shot, will catch the reader’s eye more quickly. Papers end up printing boring, cluttered photos only because those are the kinds that people, working as volunteers, so often send them.


Head tables, check-passing ceremonies, any “face-on” group, inanimate things, empty churches or any empty buildings (either from the inside or outside), people eating or making decisions (unless they do it with gusto).


Action, action, action. Only about three people in a frame. Use some props. Tell a story!

Fr. Michael Prokurat is Chancellor of the Diocese of the West.