Photographs in Documentation

By Cindy Pao, President

In January, I wrote a column about working with policies and procedures. Another of my job responsibilities is editing and releasing Safety Alerts and Flashes for the Health, Safety & Environmental (HSE) department.

Safety Alerts and Flashes are one- or two-page documents that HSE releases shortly after an incident or audit. These documents require less review – only one or two departments besides HSE – and contain action items that point to existing documentation such as policies and procedures.

Often these documents contain photos, so I thought I could share what I’ve learned about using them:

  • Be specific
  • Don’t point – use your tools
  • Lighting
  • Company image

Be Specific

If you need to show a damaged part, get as close as you can to the part to take the photo. It’s hard to see the damage from far away, and no one is interested in the surrounding scenery, anyway.

Don’t Point

One of the first times I took my own photos, I had a person stand and point at parts. What was I thinking?! As I mentioned before, get as close as you can to your subject. Then use the tools in your graphics program to point, circle, or otherwise highlight items in your photo.

Lighting

If you need it, use your flash. If your reader can’t see the damage, how useful is your photo?

Company Image

This tip comes from working with the Marketing department: Protect your company’s image when you take photos.

  • The area around your photo should be neat and clean.
  • The people in your photo must be wearing appropriate attire: coveralls, hard hats, steel-toes boots.
  • The people in your photo must be wearing correct personal protective equipment: safety glasses, face shields, hearing protection, gloves.
  • The equipment in your photo should be correctly configured and not modified unless you have permission to modify it.

Protecting our company’s image might not even occur to us if we’re taking photos, and that’s why I’m writing about it. We know we have to give our readers correct information, and the correct company image should be part of that.

By the way, this advice also applies to shooting video.

Share

Do you have some good advice for including photos in your documentation? Leave a comment to this article and tell us what you learned.

And, if you’re just better interacting one-on-one, send an email to president@stc-houston.org.