Tom Adams

How to take a great photo - for you and your company

It sounds obvious, but a little planning can go a long way / By Tom Adams

The nature of working in crisis media response inevitably means I end up having to focus on the pernicious, sometimes damaging, impacts of photos on social media. Our clients expect that. When I conduct training, there is sadly no shortage of bad practice I can draw from to illustrate how using social media irresponsibly can be damaging to both individual and corporate reputations.

Nonetheless, despite the challenges that social media poses, our industry is increasingly reliant on the opportunities it presents. Think of the sheer amount of visual marketing collateral that operating ships can generate. To access this, marketing departments across our industry often run ‘photo competitions’, usually with a prize of recognition attached, asking seafarers to submit their best photos of life at sea.

Yet companies don’t teach seafarers how to take a social media compliant photo when they run these competitions. Social media training is a ‘must have’ if we expect our seafarers to use social media in line with our expectations. That’s why we developed our eLearning course LINK for seafarers that imparts good social media etiquette for our seaborne staff.

So, if you’re a seafarer reading this – I’m going to tell you how to take the photo that both you and your company want to share far and wide.

Composition: Think about what you want your photo to show. It sounds obvious, but a little planning (particularly in a working environment) can go a long way. I like to start with basic ideas: am I shooting a landscape, or a portrait? Do I want my subject to be active or passive? Will you be staging the photograph or capturing a candid moment? Those are the things you consider for your own interests but remember to consider your employers too. Be sure not to shoot anything that might be commercially sensitive or that reveals private and confidential practice or information.

Lighting: One luxury of a vessel at sea is the access to every type of lighting condition one can imagine. Early morning sunrises in exotic port calls, long evenings as the sun gently rolls beyond the horizon, bright stars in the dead of night. Use the natural light to your advantage. I like shooting late in the day to create silhouettes, particularly on human subjects – it has the dual benefit of creating mystery and masking their identity. However, think if you can’t recognise the subject you don’t need to ask their permission? Think again, always ask your colleagues for their permission to appear in your photos. 

Shoot safely: To get the best photo, you need to focus on your viewfinder. If you’re using a phone to take your photos, you still benefit from peripheral vision, but if you use a DSLR or traditional camera you’ll be deprived of this sense. Regardless of the camera, you’ll be playing with the camera settings, perhaps even directing your subject. Bottom line, you’ll not be focused on the world outside your view finder. A ship is a working environment, you must think about your safety (and the safety of your subjects). Set some time aside in your leisure time, consider the safest places on the vessel to get your shots and abide by all safety directives.

Editing: Post-production is just as much a part of a great photo as the actual shot. I use Google’s Snapseed, it’s free and is great on a mobile app, but if you’re more skilled then Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop are comprehensive editing tools. Some of the best shots I see from seafarers use amazing, vivid colours, so play with your saturation and contrast levels to get the look you’re going for. An underexposed, moody skyline might even suit black and white. Critically, post-production editing is your last opportunity to crop or filter out anything that might be against your company policies.

Accidentally capture a client name or piece of confidential documentation in the photo? No problem. Use the brush feature to erase it from the shot without compromising your photo.
Follow this advice, happy shooting!

Email: tom.adams@navigateresponse.com

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