A picture tells a thousand words, apparently. A bad picture tells many more, including ‘bland’, ‘amateur’ and ‘clueless’. This is the digital age: in 2016 media is consumed faster than beard wax and whichever frothily-topped, sweet-tinged latte is currently in vogue; snap judgements are made out of context; and striking images flash across social media like wildfire. Good photography has never carried such weight. Where photography that excels has its obvious benefits, I find poor imagery to be a missed opportunity and an endless source of frustration.
Bad or poorly used photography is the immediately obvious spelling mistake of a visualised world. The sore thumb of imagery. I hate it.
With reduced start-up costs, increased tech and internet pointers, self-made snappers are available by the spade and usually have equipment that is adequate for most needs. This has given birth to the bane of established, proficient photographers the world over: the .com/photographer. Buying a camera, lens and adding ‘Photography’ to your name on social media does not a photographer make. Years of carefully honing skills, intricately studying subjects and at least an ounce of artistic flair are far more important than a lust to make money and desire to adorn oneself in an ‘ironic’ summertime scarf. That is not to discourage enthusiasts with a passion for photography, far from it, I am merely highlighting a blight that is in danger of dumbing down a profession and making it harder for the thousands of brilliant, and dedicated professionals out there who have often invested tens of thousands of pounds in order to make a living.
The rise of the .com/photographer and a penchant for flashily edited imagery has given birth to floating cars and glowing heads. Please, step away from the Lightbox. Post-processing is a glorious way of making a good image great, not a shoddy shot shiny.
The problem is, from a business perspective, a lot of decision makers won’t have an eye for a technically strong image, and it’s becoming too easy to make a poor judgement call due to the availability of sub-standard work. It is like someone who’s never experienced meat before sampling steaks cooked by a selection of vegetarians. The assumption is, that because someone is passing themselves off as a professional and appears to have the necessary equipment that they are in a position to provide advice, and a service that is fit for purpose. On the whole that is entirely fair, but the difference that can be made by choosing an outstanding image and a merely adequate one is huge. Think about the images that receive the most ‘shares’ on social media, for example, and now consider the brand they are representing. Or the success of truly outstanding photographers.
Relevance too, can be just as important. Assuming a base level of image quality, relevance can make a website, article or social media post jump out from competitors’. A truly outstanding set of images can transcend other factors – quality of content or even interest levels, for instance – but a clumsy or poorly chosen image can undermine otherwise sparkling content.
Consider the feel of an image, be that attained through exposure, composition, emotive subject or skillful post-processing. Chances are that if someone is looking at an image then it’s usually because they are not with the subject matter; this is your opportunity to convey the quality with which you want to be associated. In other words, not slapdash and over-exposed (unless we are considering a very niche market!). Skilled photography can also compliment physical attributes – imagery to support a venue, factory or ethos, as a reminder that you are somewhere that understands the value of attention to detail. Irrespective of the argument against poor photography, the opportunity to utilise truly outstanding imagery is too good to miss. As a primary point of entry on a website or printed page, a stunning image cannot be beaten.
Let’s encourage the best to flourish…