If your engineering company’s professional, don’t do this

11 Jul 19 ARH away tiny
Anthony Haynes

Anthony Haynes writes: In the previous couple of posts, I’ve written about the potential in engineering communications of still photography.

But there’s one thing regarding still photography that you mustn’t do — namely, publish a team photo. You know the ones: when you get everyone to line up in front of the office and smile.

Team photographs have a role in some contexts. Sport, for example, where the individuals within the team might themselves have a following.

Seasonal photos of sports teams can provide a concise historical record.

17 Jul 19 Dresden74
Dynamo Dresden (1974) — photo provided under Creative Commons licence

Ditto, annual photographs of students on academic courses.

But not in engineering. No doubt everyone wants to be in the picture, has fun while it’s being taken, and wants to see how they look in it. So if you want to take a photo for the office notice board or the internal newsletter, just to boost morale, go ahead. Just don’t publish it.

The problem with publishing an office team photo is that it instantly identifies your organisation as playing in a minor league.

What does the office team photo show? Oh, look: we employ people! (Whoever would have guessed?) People who wear much the same kind of clothes as other people! And you see that building behind us: that shows we have a workplace and don’t just camp out in the fields! Isn’t that amazing?

Such photographs might just make it onto the pages of trade magazines or local newspapers. But when did you last see one on the front page of The Times or The Washington Post?

Not that there’s anything wrong with trade magazines or local newspapers per se. far from it. It’s just that there’s an asymmetry: photographs of the type that do feature in national media also work for local and trade press — but not necessarily vice versa.

So what kind of images do work, then? Answer: photographs of people meaningfully interacting — with each other, with technology, or both.

Recently a trend has developed, presumably based on a glimmering awareness that team photos are dull, of publishing team photos in which everyone waves their hands in the air.

That doesn’t work, either. It’s still a team photo. Don’t do it.


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