Politics·Video

Why good political photo-ops don't happen by accident

You've seen the images - Justin Trudeau paddling a canoe, Stephen Harper playing street hockey and Tom Mulcair sipping wine with supporters. What goes into a political photo op? And how important are they in the age of social media?

What goes into an election photo-op and why are they still so important? The CBC's Alison Crawford explains

Alison Crawford reports for The National on how political parties craft their leaders' photo calls to tell the story they want. 2:33

It takes weeks to plan them well. 

Campaign organizers must select the perfect backdrop — either a friendly crowd or a gorgeous landscape — to drive home a message about their candidate or the party's message. 

They give advice, although not always welcome, about what the politician should wear, what they should do and then instruct the photographers and videographers where to stand. 

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau paddles a canoe down the Bow River in Calgary, Alta. on Sept. 17, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Then they cross their fingers and hope the candidate doesn't drop the ball, put the hard hat on backwards or get kicked by the horse.

We all know a photo opp when we see it. 

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair tastes wine during a federal election campaign stop at Summerhill Winery in Kelowna, B.C. on Sept. 1, 2015. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

No matter how professional the campaign team, there's almost always something that tips off the viewer that what they're seeing didn't happen naturally.

And despite being a mainstay of election campaigns for decades, in an era where voters have access to a constant stream of images on their mobile devices, these contrived events have never been so crucial.

Watch the CBC's Alison Crawford explain just how important photo ops still are in the age of social media in the video above. 

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper takes a shot during a campaign stop at a company that makes hockey rink boards in Port Moody, B.C., on Sept. 15, 2015. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

About the Author

Alison Crawford is a senior reporter in CBC's parliamentary bureau, covering justice, public safety, the Supreme Court and Liberal Party of Canada.