Turns out what they say about pictures is true.

I learned that the hard way after we published a photo of a lifeguard with his rescue tube slung over his back like a sack of potatoes. (The offending picture is at right.) At the time, the art staff and I were just looking for a photo that could illustrate the story.

This is more of a challenge than you might think due to our extremely limited budget. And because they are published in the magazine, photos must be what we call “high resolution” quality (300 dpi, for you tech heads, though even that’s not always enough). As a result, we often go to outside sources for our photos. In this case, we found a file photo we had used in the past. Problem solved.

Or so I thought.

You see, the photo we chose is almost a case study of an unprofessional lifeguard. The main issue is the way he’s holding the tube, not exactly rescue ready. The first voice of concern came from the American Red Cross, which was the subject of the news story the photo was supposed to illustrate. Needless to say, the organization was not pleased with this unprofessional lifeguard pose being associated with its training programs. Then we started to hear comments from

readers online.

All that happened just from our AI Extra e-newsletter — before the magazine even got into people’s hands. We changed the photo online. Publication of the photo brought

another round of criticism on our social network site, AI Connect. Saying the image made his “blood boil,” Cody Butcher started a forum on the site titled, “Tarnished Images,” in which he took that photo and another from our Lifesavers column to task, not to mention our decision to run them.

Here’s just a small sampling of his 684-word post: “We have been working for years to erase the image of the ‘carefree teenager’ who is just getting a paycheck.  Yet industry publications like this … are still proving them right.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve been called out for an inappropriate photo. But it is the first time that I really got it:  The reason these photos make people such as Cody Butcher so upset is because of what they do to the industry.

I’ve been an advocate for improving aquatic professionalism since I started editing this magazine. Our entire annual Power 25 issue was created to celebrate the best and brightest aquatics professionals, and thereby raise professional standards. Often this column has called out organizations and individuals for not living up to those standards. But I don’t always think about how the very images we put out to the industry can and have undercut the professionalism we’re trying to promote.

That’s changing from this day forward. But I need your help. So I’m asking you to please send me photos of your lifeguards in a variety of professional poses and actions — on the chair, making rescues, doing drills and the like. Make it a fun photo shoot. Just be sure you’re using a good-quality digital camera at the highest resolution possible.

I’ll even create a slide show on AI Connect to showcase what you send me. That way, the next time we need a photo for an article, we’ll have a stable from which to choose that presents aquatics in the professional manner it deserves.