Lines of Sight

The business side of photography

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How to shoot yourself in the foot

Here’s the best way for a company to mess up its public relations, mangle what’s left of its brand value and kill off any future credibility. (I’ll give you a hint: cut corners and go cheap on photography.)

As everyone knows, BP is in the midst of the worst oil spill in US history. As part of its attempt at public relations, and to salvage its brand, BP is trying to keep the public informed of its ongoing cleanup operations. Note that BP doesn’t call it an “oil spill” but rather an “oil well incident”.

What did BP do? It released doctored photos to the public, pictures that have been amateurishly altered to show BP in a better light. BP’s very weak mea culpa here.

The joke was that “BP” stood for “Broken Pipe”. It nows appears that it stands for “Bad Photoshopping”.

Every photo released is now suspect. If BP alters pictures, is it also altering the facts in its press releases?

Ironically, in reference to its PR photos, BP says on its corporate web site, “These images … are made available in good faith. … these images will not be used in connection with any purpose that is prejudicial to BP”.

One web commenter wrote:

What bothers me is not the fact that BP put a poorly edited photo on their website, it’s the fact that some hack got PAID good money to do such a crappy job! Doesn’t anybody have pride in their work anymore? Or is it that they are just so amazingly untalented they actually think that looks GOOD?

I’ve said it before: the worst thing a company can do is to cut corners on its business photography.

If BP spent a few more dollars instead of going cheap:

• it could’ve hired a more talented person to alter its pictures, which then would’ve gone undetected. (insert sarcasm here).

• hired a better photographer so the pictures wouldn’t have needed to be altered. Perhaps photojournalists who know exactly what to shoot and how to shoot it.

• hired a more knowledgeable photographer who would’ve known that you simply can’t alter public relations or media handout pictures.

• hired better public relations people who would’ve known that you can’t spin pictures like this. When an entire country is watching its every move, that company has to be 120% perfect.

If a multi-billion dollar company like BP cuts corners on a relatively tiny budget item like its public relations photography, it makes one wonder where else it’s cutting corners.

BP certainly has bigger problems on its hands than its public relations photography. It also has infinite money to (eventually) buy its way out. Most other companies don’t have this luxury.

Photography is the number one way to enhance or destroy a business image. The photography a business uses reflects the quality and perceived value of that business. The public is not stupid. Using cheap photography fools no one but yourself.

The worst thing a company can do is to cut corners on its business photography.


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