Navigating the legal and safety issues around field photography

Guest blogger: Rick Zettler, President of Z-Comm

In the construction industry, the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” holds true — photos can often show what the words alone can’t. What we’ve learned over the years is that if our clients want to increase their chances of getting press coverage, it is important to provide high-quality photos of their products with their content.

Because photos are such a vital part of our client’s content marketing efforts, Todd and I don’t trust just anyone with our photography needs. We work with several photography professionals who specialize in taking photos for the construction industry, including fellow PR pro, Rick Zettler. During a recent conversation with Rick, he mentioned that taking photos for his clients is only part of the job when he’s hired to do a photoshoot. When we asked him what he meant, he gave us the scoop on getting field photography reviewed and approved following the photoshoot. We thought his thoughts and advice were so great that we wanted to share it with you.

Below is a guest blog provided by our good friend, Rick, on navigating the legal and safety issues in taking field photography. Enjoy!

You have a great opportunity for a magazine cover and a vertical shot that’s perfect. Problem is, however, you can’t use it because someone found problems with it

You need field photos to go along with a feature article you promised to an editor that’s due. Unfortunately, that same person won’t allow you to use what’s in your library.

Sound familiar? If it does, you know the frustration. If not, you need to read further, because, chances are, you will eventually face it in your marketing life.

In years past, all us marketing types needed to submit field photography to a magazine was a release from the customer and approval from marketing. But that was yesterday. Today, for many companies, there’s someone else that you MUST involve from the beginning. It’s the person in charge of product safety review of promotional materials.

A growing number of companies have designated a person (or persons) responsible for reviewing field photography, not to make sure it represents the brand well, but so these wonderful shots show safe operating practices in the field.

Product Safety is a key department that today’s marketers must get to know better. These people are charged with ensuring the customer’s safety, and if an unsafe operating practice is shown in photography (or video), then it is sending mixed signal to the customer.

Photos can be rejected by Safety for anything ranging from a missing safety decal to a person standing in a danger zone to a missing safety guard to not wearing the recommended safety gear. As marketers, we must know the safety review process just as good, if not better than, than the customers we address.

The following are a few tips to consider for your next photo (or video) shoot, so you aren’t left “photoless” when the next PR opportunity presents itself.

  • Get to know the person in charge of photo/video safety review… How strictly does he/she adhere to the safety standards outlined in the operator’s manual? What type of safety violations does he/she look for when reviewing a photo or video footage?
  • Have a meeting with safety prior to a scheduled field shoot… Discuss the equipment being shot, the environment it will be working in and in what ways the photos/video will be used. Learn what Safety expects to see (or not see).
  • If possible, have a distributor or field sales rep inspect the equipment prior to the site visit… This will help to ensure the equipment will comply. If it won’t, then you have the chance to fix the situation prior to the shot or possibly look for another project site with equipment that complies.
  • Cover with the customer in advance the manufacturer’s required safe operating standards … Some manufacturer’s standards will be more stringent than within the state the customer is working. For instance, some states may require only safety vests for a particular project, but the manufacturer requires hard hats to be used with the equipment. Even though the customer is adhering to state safety standards, the photos may be rejected if no hard hats are shown.
  • When submitting photos for approval, tell the safety person how the photos will be used… Some safety reviews will have a less critical eye if the image/video is being used for editorial purposes only vs. if they will be used as part of an ongoing promotional campaign.
  • Budget time and money for Photoshop… Inevitably, you’ll come across a great cover photo that safety just will not approve. If you don’t have an alternate image that meets safety standards, then talk to safety to learn what needs to be fixed and then fix it through the magic of Photoshop.

The bottom line for today’s marketer, get safety involved from the beginning to avoid the headaches of not being able to deliver that perfect shot to a magazine or use that perfect video captured in the field.

President of Z-Comm, Rick Zettler has worked in and with the marketing departments of equipment manufacturers for more than 25 years. Offering writing, PR management and photography services, Rick has experience in the construction, aggregate, mining, lifting and road building industries. He can be reached at 319-265-0052 or