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  • Hector Heathwood

"You get what you don't pay for!"

Well, I hope this doesn't come across as a rant, or an attack on any individual or group. Unfortunately in today's social media driven society I can't help but think it will be by some. Please remember, dear reader, that I have over twenty years experience as a teacher of photography behind me and have written a BA Degree in Photography, and another in Visual Media.

In that capacity my rôle, and primary goal, has always been to encourage those new to the medium to grow and develop their skills. It is in that spirit that I now write this piece. I've also worked in the field commercially for more than thirty years, servicing clients in promotional and advertising imagery, as well as publishing and exhibiting my personal work internationally. I'm gonna ask you to accept that, to some extent, I know what I'm talking about.

So, why this title? Recently I was discussing the imagery used on social media sites with a very clever lady. We were agreed that an awful lot of it was pretty mediocre, and often a direct copy of someone else's work. That issue is for another post, soon to come.

"Well," she said, "you get what you don't pay for!" I was dumbstruck! What a brilliantly insightful and succinct statement that struck right to the heart of the problem.

I'm sure just about everyone engaged in any creative endeavour these days will totally agree with those few, but devastating, words.

It's all very well to get your photographs done by a mate/someone with a camera/ a student/ a camera club member for free, but there is a danger nowadays; those pictures are out there forever!

Starting out in an art form, not so very long ago, meant you practised and honed your craft before it got released. Practitioners studied their work and sought out critical analysis and feedback long before the public saw it.

Those days are over now, all too often sub-standard art is published on-line and 'Liked' by the author or models' friends without much, if any, thought as to its quality.

But what good does this do that fledgling artist? I'm going to argue, no good at all. Quite the reverse! Every time a viewer hits that little 'thumbs-up' button the creator will take it as applause for them having done well. Why should they then go back and do better? Where's the incentive to grow?

We are now entering a time when the first 'selfie' generation are growing up, and looking for a higher level of quality and sophistication. Who will provide it? Not the people who have played it safe and continued producing mediocrity for 'Likes'.

So, to wrap up this piece, which is beginning to look a bit 'ranty' I must confess, if you want to see or possess high quality work, pay someone with skill and experience to create it. Don't expect an amateurish approach to produce the goods. Study and aim for the best the market can provide, that goes for practitioners and users alike.

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