21 Photos You Should Never Post on Social Media

July 12, 2011
Sarah Eaton

Share photos on social media that are crisp, clean and professional.

I have been working with a variety of organizations on social media strategies, tactics and plans this year. Part of the learning curve involves getting a handle on exactly what we should post on social media. The flip side is knowing what not to post.

One of the toughest questions relates to photographs. Staff at every level, as well as students and volunteers need to be very, very clear that once their photos are posted on line, they immediately leave a “digital footprint”.

In Vancouver earlier this year there was a riot after the city’s hockey team lost the final game of the 2011 Stanley Cup. Photos posted online have been used to identify those involved in the incident. There’s even a Facebook page called “Vancouver Riot Pics: Post Your Photos” and a similar website that police are reportedly scanning to gather evidence against alleged rioters.

In addition to photos taken of just about anyone, by anyone else, at a public event, pictures can also be copied by just about anyone, saved and then re-shared again via e-mail or other postings. Oh yeah, and in between the point when they are saved and re-distributed, they can also be Photoshopped. Think about that for a minute… That means anything you post on line can be saved by someone else and altered in any number of ways beyond your wildest dreams.

Last month, in the United States, the federal government essentially condoned a new start-up company whose core business is to screen prospective employees for companies, by scouring their digital and social media footprints.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t post photos. It just means that you want to be very savvy about what you put out there in cyberspace. Avoid photos that could be considered questionable by prospective employers, program funders or other professional contacts. But what does that mean, exactly? Let me give you some examples of the types of photos (and videos) to avoid:

  1. You, in a swimsuit. Seriously, unless you are a swimsuit model and you’re looking for modelling gigs, leave the beach photos off social media.
  2. You, in your underwear (especially if it’s in a public setting and that’s all you happen to be wearing).
  3. Boudoir shots (Unless you’re a boudoir photographer or a nude model, don’t post these.)
  4. Drunk / tipsy photos.
  5. Photos of you – or anyone – lighting up a reefer or doing any kind of drugs. (See #12).
  6. You leaning over a toilet bowl (or anywhere else) vomiting.
  7. Actually… any photos of bodily functions are best left off social media.
  8. You engaging in frisky behaviour with your boss’s, colleague’s or friend’s significant other.
  9. Smoochy stuff of any kind — unless it’s your own wedding photo, and even then, I’d err on the side of caution.
  10. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” photos – That means, photos of you having a good time, when you should have been at work or school. (Bosses and teachers use Facebook too, you know.)
  11. You with a .49 shotgun, a machine gun, a handgun or any kind of weapon, for that matter. (Again, unless you are a firearms instructor.)
  12. You, engaged in any kind of criminal or illicit activities. (I’m sure the Vancouver riot seemed innocent enough at the time…)
  13. You, acting out your anger or frustrations by walloping your kid with a big ol’ wooden spoon or kicking the dog.
  14. You, taking out your frustrations or loneliness by cutting your wrists, hanging yourself by a noose, or even staging or pretending a suicide attempt. That’s just disturbing. Call the local help line. Don’t post a photo.
  15. You, being arrested, being hauled off in a police car or in jail.
  16. Similarly, you, in a straight jacket, handcuffed or otherwise restrained. Even if it’s part of a Halloween costume, just think what a prospective employer might think when they Google you and see that photo out of context. You won’t get the job.
  17. Photos of your house, that clearly show your address. (Seriously, do you really want to make it that easy for the whole world — and I mean, the whole world — to know where you live?)
  18. Photo renditions (scanned copies) of your driver’s license, passport or other ID. Even if you just got your first ever driver’s license, do not scan it and post it on Facebook. Ever.
  19. Photo renditions (scanned copies) of prescriptions. (Despite what you may believe, your Facebook friends don’t need to know what meds you’re on.)
  20. Photos of other people’s children – taken or posted without their permission. A friend of mine recently found a photo of her daughter posted on a government website. In an attempt to save money, the web designer found photos of cute kids on Google and used them as generic art on the website. (It’s not legal, but it happens). She got the photo removed, but prior to that incident, she had no idea the photo was even on line.
  21. Photos of your friends or loved ones that may compromise their future. You can inadvertently jeopardize others’ safety and job prospects by posting inappropriate photos of them.

Think about the repercussions of every single photo you post. The general rule is to keep it clean and professional. If you wouldn’t show it to your boss, your grandma, your favorite teacher AND the local preacher, don’t post it on line. What seems funny today could cost you a job, a contract or a college admission tomorrow.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

A picture says a thousand words: Tap into the world of stock photos

August 2, 2010

A while ago I did a post on photo tips and ideas for language and literacy programs. In that post I gave some ideas on the types of things you can take pictures to marketing and promote your language and literacy program.

Really though, unless you have someone on staff who was has excellent photography skills, your photos may lack professionalism. Using stock photography has some advantages for marketing. Not only are you guaranteed to get excellent quality, royal-free images, you also don’t have to worry about getting students or their parents to sign waivers allowing you to use their image to promote your school.

There are a number of companies out there that offer stock photos, as well as images and sometimes audio tracks, too. Either you buy credits which allow you to purchase photos on a pay-as-you-go type of arrangement, or you buy a subscription for a certain period of time. Buying credits is a good way to test out the system for not very much money, just to learn how it works.

Once you get to the site, type in a key word that matches the image of what you’re trying to portray. You’ll usually get thousands of images, some of which will work and others won’t. Words I’ve used for marketing ESL and EFL programs include “multicultural”, “students”, “international”, “school” and so forth. Get creative with your key words if the results aren’t giving you what you’re looking for.

  • Getty Images
  • Jupiter Images
  • Fotolia
  • iStock – The photo from this post is from iStock. Every week they offer a freebie for members. This particular freebie was very appropriate for languages and literacy, so how could I resist?

The size of the photo you buy depends on what you are using it for. For website use only, you can get away with smaller images. If you’re using them in printed materials such as brochures, school prospectuses, etc. then you’ll want a higher quality image.

Once you’ve purchases the rights to a photo, you can use it for a variety of purposes, providing you stay within the agreements. For example, don’t go and re-sell the image by putting it on merchandise such as coffee cups or T-shirts that you charge money for.

Some people have said to me that using stock photos seems insincere because the subjects aren’t real students or staff from your school. That is true. It is one trade off of using pro quality stock photos. Ultimately you need to decide what you want – and can – do for yourself. Also, have a look at what your competitors are using in their photos. If their images are pro quality, you may be looking at stock photos.

For me, using stock photos for at least some of your marketing materials, is a good investment of resources.

Do you have a favorite site for photos that’s not listed here? Leave a comment, so others can find out about it, too.


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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

Photo tips and ideas for language and literacy programs

July 23, 2010

Your marketing materials need photos. Period.

I’m a big fan of using professional quality photos in your marketing and promotional material. They really are worth it. If you really can’t afford to use pro quality photos, get out your digital camera and start clicking. Here are some tips.

Tips on taking and using marketing photos

  • Take high resolution photos. You can always shrink them later.
  • Keep your photos updated. – Every 2-3 years.
  • Make sure your photos are appropriate for your audience (culture, age, context)
  • Get permission from your photo subjects to use their photos.

Ideas of things to take photos of for language or literacy program marketing materials:

  • your students relaxing on school property
  • your students in class
  • your students on excursions or participating in activities
  • the school’s facilities
  • the graduation ceremony or year-end party
  • your school staff, faculty and administration
  • a typical homestay family and their home


Share this post: Photo tips and ideas for language and literacy programs http://wp.me/pNAh3-cZ

Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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