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My index finger pushed. Click. They were gone

May 1, 2022

Richard Sibley gives us his viewpoint on how to get attention as a photographer in a crowded market.

I was scared that memories from the deep recesses of my brain would be gone forever. I needed to get past the resistance. I took a long deep inhale and closed my eyes. My index finger pushed.

Click.

They were gone.

And that is how I cleared my Adobe Lightroom library, but this article is about getting attention.

I’m currently reading Stein on Writing, by Sol Stein, and it struck me that many of his thoughts on grabbing a reader’s attention in the first paragraph are equally applicable to a photograph. Researchers at the famed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) discovered that the fastest that humans could recognise an image was as quick as 13 milliseconds. That equates to seeing a single frame from a video playing at 71fps. Humans are capable of taking in visual information, literally, in the blink of an eye.

This goes some way to explain the massive amounts of images that we can consume in our day to day lives, almost being unaware that we are doing so.

Think about how long you spend looking at an image – mentally time it. The glance at a front cover of a newspaper or magazine. The glimpse as you walk past a billboard. The swipe of a phone screen. Wait. Go back. Did you actually see the billboard image in the first place or did you have your head down looking at your phone?

I probably spend less than a second looking at the majority of the images on my Instagram feed. Just a few years back it was exciting to see amazing landscape images of new locations I could visit. Now, platforms such as Instagram are becoming a perfect feedback loop: we see the location, shoot the location, share the photo, another photographer sees the location, they shoot the location, share the image and the cycle continues. I would guess my Instagram feed is the same as the vast majority of photographers – full of images that would have been hailed as incredible 20 years ago and are now simply generic due to our exposure to them.

How do we get attention as a photographer?

So how exactly do we get people to stop and really look at the images we are taking? The answer is obvious, and Sol Stein poses a question that sums it up nicely – ‘Do we gaze with wonder at the nice, average, normal, looking people we pass in the street?’

With such hyper-exposure to images, you have to really produce photos that are in some way exceptional, or strikingly different from the norm. Both require hard work and creativity, or sheer luck.

New Zealand, South Island, Wanaka, Otago, Woman on Coromandel peak at sunrise, Credit: Westend61, Getty Images

Wanaka, Otago, New Zealand, Woman on Coromandel peak at sunrise, Credit: Westend61, Getty Images

But, unless photography is your way of making a living, don’t worry about attention, or lack of it. The incredible creative puzzle, mental exercise and physical practice is the real enjoyment of photography, not the number of eyeballs on your images.


The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Amateur Photographer magazine or Kelsey Media Limited. If you have an opinion you’d like to share on this topic, or any other photography related subject email: ap.ed@kelsey.co.uk

Related reading:

How to organise your photos with Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
Best portable drives for backing up your photos

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