Up close and personal, photographing the mptv way

Your articles do not deserve generic pictures

By Evangeline de Bourgoing, contributor, Reuters Community

Access a trove of untapped material

All too often, visuals seem like an afterthought. You can feel the struggle of the journalist who, after hours carefully crafting an article, had to trawl stock image databases – only to find a generic and tired picture. But it does not have to be this way.

Stand out from the crowd

With mptv, a Reuters Connect entertainment partner, newsrooms have access to millions of untapped celebrity pictures.

“One good thing about us is our material's always been kept at a higher level. It hasn't flooded the market. You haven't seen a million times in a book or magazine. If an editor is smart, they'll pick one of these unique images to tell their story a little more effectively and show a different side of a certain entertainer, instead of just going with a generic publicity photo, (they will) use something a little more interesting” explains Andrew Howick, mptv's director of photography. 

If an editor is smart, they'll pick one of these unique images to tell their story a little more effectively and show a different side of a certain entertainer

Andrew Howick, director of photography, mptv

As fresh as it gets

Mptv is constantly looking for new newsworthy material to upload on Reuters Connect. They quickly react to news events such as the death of public figures like Aretha Franklin and do their best to anticipate news events, so that, when news breaks, journalists can have all the pictures they need at their fingertips.

We have millions of unseen negatives, transparencies, prints from some of the most famous films and TV shows of all time.

Ron Avery and Andrew Howick have a few tips for newsrooms that want to use their collection.

1. Treat the photographers with respect

Talented photographers were instrumental in building the Holywood myth. But their work often went unrecognized. Giving them the credit they deserve and making sure their names stay with their pictures is at the core of mptv’s mission. Don’t forget to keep the name of the photographers in the captions!

2. And their subjects alike

Which portrait could best represent someone’s life? It is the tricky question that journalists keep facing when a public figure passes away. According to Ron Avery,  when a well-known figure dies, journalists tend to use the last picture taken of them. Often these pictures give to see their subjects at their weakest when they enter or leave the hospital for example. But “why wouldn’t you want to show that person when they were at their best? That best represents them. They are people after all and they are not owned by the public”.

3. Entertainment pictures can tell non-entertainment stories  

Mptv is known for its entertainment pictures. But, you can tell more than only entertainment stories. For instance, the New York Times's T magazine used an mptv shot from James Dean to help readers make sense of its ode to the undergarment. They also selected a picture of Frank Sinatra wearing a wristwatch to give some context to their article about the Apple Watch.

4. Dig deeper and find surprising gems

Mptv’s collection is full of surprises. In 1957, the Saturday Evening Post assigned Sid Avery to document the experience of the braceros, the Mexican farm workers that came to the US to work on short-term, primarily agricultural labor contracts, as part of the Bracero Program. Sixty years later, mptv unearthed some of those pictures, which hadn't been published since the original story. The timing could not have been better as at that time debates about immigration policy in the US had put the Bracero Program back in the news. Time took advantage of the opportunity and published a pertinent and timely photo essay about Avery’s pictures.

Dig into mptv archives on Reuters Connect. Precise captions and metadata make it quick to find the pictures you need. Careful color correction and scanning means you don’t need to spend time retouching the photographs.  

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