Beware the photo shoot

Rotterdam city council hit the headlines last week for the wrong reasons. An eagle-eyed local politician spotted that the city’s new policy document on sport, play and fitness was illustrated with a rather unfortunate playground shot.

Nothing wrong with the smiling couple and ice-lolly-munching boy sitting in the foreground enjoying the sunshine. But what’s behind them gives a whole new meaning to the word photoshoot: a young girl toting a toy machine gun.

“We chose a nice couple for the foreground, but didn’t look carefully enough at the background. We will, of course, replace the photo,” newspaper Algemeen Dagblad quoted a Rotterdam spokesman as saying. (The fact Dutch police have just launched a campaign warning of the danger of look-a-like weapons adds irony.)

Over your shoulder

The lessons are clear for anyone selecting visuals to post on social media, print in a brochure or publish anywhere else. But they go far beyond that, too. The ‘look over your shoulder’ lesson is something we always teach at media trainings: if you’re being interviewed on camera for broadcast, always turn and look to see what’s behind you, in case the backdrop is inappropriate.

Maybe you’re at a trade show and the logo of your main competitor is emblazoned behind you. Or you’re being interviewed about how well your financial services company is doing in front of a painting of gamblers losing at cards.

The photographer or cameraman – or an eagle-eyed member of the public – might delight in the contrast. It’s safe to say that you won’t.

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