To celebrate National Camera Day on June 29, we asked one of our favorite #UtilityPioneers to share tips for catching great shots of lineworkers. Have tips you’d like to share with your peers? Send them to!

In February, one of our crews helped Salem Electric bring power back on. When one of Salem’s communicators went out in the field and took both photo and video, the crew asked if I sent her to get photos of them. I laughed when she told me and said, “Well, I guess I have developed a reputation of getting photos.”

Since 2014 when I joined Central Electric Cooperative in Redmond, Oregon, I’ve worked hard to establish trust and build a solid library of lineworker images. Here are the top five tactics that work for me.

1: Know your Lineworkers

Attend crew meetings, spend time on the docks and find other ways to support lineworkers both with and without your camera. Get close and curious.

To get good images, it helps to know who (and what) you’re aiming at. Learn about their jobs and the equipment they use. While you shouldn’t pester them with questions, it helps to get a general overview of what work they are doing and why. It’s trust-building, and it shows you are interested in what they are doing.

Know your lineworkers and your pictures will improve. Period.

Capturing underground cable work helps tell the lineworker story in a fresh way. Photograph by Courtney Cobb

2: Bring Treats

When I’m in the field, I bring ice-cold Gatorade in the summer or hot coffee and cookies or muffins in the winter. It’s a way to break the ice with the crews, and they are always excited for the treats. The extras, if there are any, make their way back to our main campus at the end of the day.

I have been told I’m spoiling the crews, but I think they deserve it. Last February, I covered our crews doing night work, so I ordered up some coffee and cookies for the crew to have when they were taking a quick break. They were appreciative, and I was able to get great images to tell their story, too.

3: Change your Perspective

When you’re in the field, take a moment to assess the work, pick the best angles and be patient. Avoid always standing in the same spot. Walk around. Try to get up higher if you can. Composition is important. Are you setting the scene? Aim for details to tell your story.

If you have a camera with multiple lenses, change the lenses out to help you capture different views. Take note of where the sun is and how lighting can impact your picture.

For closer perspectives of line work, I like using our drone. It was a great investment! If you can, talk crews into taking you up in a bucket truck that works, too.

A drone captured this horizon-breaking image. Look for ways to change your perspective and make your image subjects stand out. Photograph by Courtney Cobb

4: Block out Time

Not every photo shoot should be in and out in 10 minutes. When I spent time with photographer David LaBelle at the Pioneer Communicators’ Workshop, he recommended putting time on your side.

When you’re getting shots for a story, take time to talk to the crews. We often see shots of lineworkers on utility poles, but don’t forget the ground crews and unusual equipment. Give yourself time, and better pictures will develop.

By shooting at night, the camera caught the “shavings” coming off from crews drilling through a pole. Photograph by Courtney Cobb

5: Ask for the Shot

Don’t be afraid to ask lineworkers for photos. You might not always be able to be out in the field at a moment’s notice. Linemen are in a unique position to take photos of the work they are doing. This comes in handy during outages.

Not everyone will want to help, but you might be surprised at which lineworkers will step up to help you capture strong storytelling shots.

How do you build your lineworker image library? Share tips below!