Sharing the joy and setting the standard: The strange serendipity between UGC and professional photography

In 2012, Liverpool hosted Royal de Luxe, a French street theatre company who bring huge marionettes to town for remarkable city centre-wide performances. It was a huge hit, attracting hundreds of thousands of people to the city. Here’s one of the Liverpool Echo’s most memorable (to me) pictures of the event in 2012:


A fantastic spectacle, and if you look at the crowds, you can see plenty of smartphones in action – but I think it’s still safe to say most people are watching it with their own eyes directly, rather than via the screen of their iphone.

Now here’s a picture from last weekend, when the Giants returned to Liverpool for a spectacle which attracted even more people (but remarkably still managed to catch the local train operators off guard!)


Maybe it’s the angle of the photograph, but I think the majority of people here are watching the show through their mobile phone, snapping pictures and taking video.

The brilliant wraparound on the Echo’s print edition on Saturday is further proof:

liverpoolecho front

I picked up a copy of Saturday’s paper and the point I’m trying to make is far more obvious when you’re holding two tabloid pages next to each other.

Maybe we’ve passed a tipping point – where what we call UGC is no longer the exception, but the norm at big events. It’s why User Generated Content is so important for newsrooms which want to have a long-term future connected with their communities – we need to be sharing their interest in the content they are prepared to share.

And that’s where an unusual serendipity is emerging between UGC photography and professional photography. The user figures and sales of newspapers when they cover big events – be it the Giants in Liverpool or the Tour De France in Yorkshire – show just how important strong images either well-planned by experts or captured at a second’s notice have.

In a world where anyone can take photograph *like that*, the value of a different photo, one which stops you in your tracks, takes on an added quality – regardless of who takes it. Professional photographers are the best placed to create those images.

Any skill becomes more valued when more people understand how hard it can be to do it brilliantly. Newsrooms need to share in the joy people get from taking their own photos (and indeed, any form of UGC), while at the same time making space for high-quality photography from their own staff.

Everyone can take a photo, and indeed everyone – judging by the giants – pretty much does. Photography has never been more popular, and that’s a huge opportunity for newsrooms everywhere. Share the joy and set the standard.


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