The Impact and Influence of Photography

Berner Oberland panorama

The other day while riding a train, I watched as a small girl, maybe three years old, sat on her mother’s lap and flipped through a tourism brochure. I could clearly see her eyes quickly scan each page searching for something to land on. The pages with no photos would be flipped aside while those with several photos would be studied. She’d lean in closer to the photos she found interesting. Her body language, even at three years old, revealed what I am sure is true for all of us when looking at today’s infinite media sources.

Would an adult have been any different? Probably not. I had, only the day before, made a decision about the quality of a local magazine by doing exactly what this little girl did. I saw a regional magazine I’d been meaning to check, picked it up and rapidly scanned through looking at… what? The photos. My perception of this product was based on about 12 seconds of time. The content of the magazine revealed that it was of a high enough quality to warrant taking. I approved based on photography. That magazine succeeded at getting my attention.

But how many others do we pass by? How many advertisements do we simply pass over when clicking around online or skimming through magazines? We’re bombarded with imagery, and the standards are rising. The qualities we like must be presented at a level high enough to catch our attention. We like tidy, pretty things, we like emotion, we like inspiration and we like happiness and kindness. We like these things in photography as much as we do in people. If these traits are present, we’ll have a closer look, the words and the product come next.

As a professional photographer, I am interested to know how and why a brand chooses the imagery they wish to portray their own image. Also, I am interested to know how a consumer of images, and therefore of these brands, chooses what image is successful. What images made that little girl pause? What makes you pause?

It’s interesting to place similar images on a page, good vs. bad – why does one catch our attention while another we skip right over?

Trail running at sunrise, Interlaken, Switzerland

Trail running at Bishop Pass, California

A hiker stands in the moody landscape at Annapurna, Nepal

Plaun la Greina, Switzerland

I’d love to hear some comments here. Thanks!




Comments 6

  1. I do the same thing and I swear my 5 year old son does, too. Great photos and/or art quickly capture my attention and hold it. It seems there is a parallel between high quality photos and production values, and high quality writing in magazines. Magazines that feature great visuals fairly consistently also contain very well written articles. Maybe it isn’t fair to judge a magazine by its cover but the reality is, most of us do. Great post!

  2. First off, I really enjoy your work!

    Everyone’s attention spans have become so short that photographs have much more impact than the written word. I would say that your observation is very accurate for all ages.

    To me, a printed photo has a much greater impact than a photo on a screen. That is why I enjoy publications such as Alpinist, The Ski Journal and Cross Country. High-quality images speak volumes.

  3. Of course a great picture have a great impact. But what makes me think more is why most times the editors choose different photos from the ones the photograph tinks would be better. Is it only the know more about marketing or less about photography?

    1. Post

      Laura, Based on my experience, I think that what a photographer feels is a great image could be an image that has an emotional connection. An editor is more objective.

  4. Something I am doing, too.
    It can also be experienced when going through the instagram feed. We are so fast scrolling through, but some images pop and let us rest…

  5. I find myself doing the same things when I grab any type of publication or in today’s age, various websites, blogs, etc. As a photographer I tend to gravitate towards the images that strike a chord with me. I remember when I was a kid cutting out photos in magazines that caught my eye and making collages of all the places I ‘had to visit someday’. That was completely based on what grabed my attention and held it. Same rings true today.

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