How To Be Cool

April 29th, 2015
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Last Thursday fotoLibra exhibited at fotoFringe at London’s King’s Cross. fotoFringe is the leading picture buyers’ expo in the UK, now that BAPLA has relinquished the Picture Buyers’ Fair after losing half its members to the recession. Over a hundred picture libraries exhibited.

We only had four definite appointments booked, relying on a lot of passing trade and the fact that we were offering a huge bar of chocolate in exchange for business cards.

None of our four scheduled appointments showed up.

It would not be an exaggeration to say we were disappointed. But the following day we were pleasantly surprised to see that Photo Archive News report’s lead image featured Yours Truly in full flow with a bemused picture buyer.

However one drop-by meeting came with an interesting story. Julian Jackson, a writer and PR for green and technology businesses, recently blogged about an academic study at the University of Minnesota funded by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), an American professional photographers’ organisation, which showed that professional photos create much more of an impact on readers than amateur ones. They used eyetracking to get an objective measure of how long 52 people looked at photographs from newspapers and news organisations. They discovered that professionally taken photographs scored a surprising 90% more ‘eyeballs’.

Meanwhile fotoLibra’s Yvonne Seeley told me that a couple of times last week picture buyers had muttered something along the lines of “wurra wurra wanna instagrammy sorta pickcher like, wurra, innit, yoknoworramean, like.”

This is not to decry the educational achievements of picture editors, all of whom appear to have double firsts in Art History, but rather to express their embarrassment in having to ask for “poorer-quality-style” images (albeit still at 300 ppi) in order to try and attract a younger audience.

We all know about level horizons, fill-in flash, f-stop effects, exposure — but some buyers are now actively searching for converging verticals, lens flare, focus failure, in a tragic effort to capture teen spirit.

It’s doomed. As an old fart, I can tell them. I remember very clearly being a teen, and one of the things that stands out in my memory is our instant group ability to spot (and laugh at) a fake. There is nothing an elderly 25 year old could write, say or do to make us believe he or she was 18 like us. It was sad, the way they tried to be cool, to ingratiate themselves with us.

They couldn’t take our pictures. We’d know right away. And we’d pity them.

And now it seems they were barking up the wrong tree anyway, because professionally taken pictures really do attract more attention.

Don’t pretend to be cool. Do your own thing, and be cool in your own way.


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17 Responses to “How To Be Cool”

  1. Sherri Carnson says:

    Excellent! Keep it up

  2. Barry says:

    Great stuff Gwyn, we are AGELESS!

  3. Geoff France says:

    I could kick myself. I’ve been deleting that sort of picture for years and now you tell me thy’re in demand.

  4. R. Downham says:

    As I’m approaching my three score years and ten, I think I qualify as an Old Fart.

    I’m not sure if I qualify as a professional photographer, given my meagre picture sales, but I’ll continue to do my own thing, and if some people don’t get it, well, so much the worse for them!

    “To thine own self be true..” etc

  5. As I am now 60+ all I can say is I’m glad I was young when I was, when all we had to do to be cool was grow long hair and wear faded jeans. These days being cool seems so much more hard work, innit bro ?

  6. Ian Garfield says:

    I am glad! Several times recently I’ve been asked if I could provide some images for free, which I have of course turned down. I then find that they have got some mug to do it for free and the pictures are very substandard. I now wonder if the images that they have published are actually meant to be like that or not!!

    I am very glad to hear that professional photos are attracting more attention. I have a friend who constantly posts what are frankly appaling images on several facebook groups – he’s getting hundreds of likes from armchair enthusiasts – ‘great job’, ‘you should do a book’ . . . One book produced and he hasn’t sold one. . . .

  7. Nick Jenkins says:

    What, hopefully, went around will come around once more. Fashions wax and wane but good, well taken photos will always be in demand.
    The fad for crap will move on/wear out/become unfashionable…………………….we can pray!

  8. Jane says:

    Looking up my trash and the mestakes now

  9. Derek Metson says:

    Thought being coll was chucking cold water over yourself like Doey Dubya did last year to ghet his picture back in the tabloids?????

  10. Derek Metson says:

    Please ignore the typos. Had a hard day. Should be ‘cool’ and ‘Dopey’