’s Atrocious Use of Photography’s Atrocious Use of Photography is my browser homepage, and I don’t know why.

Let’s put aside their unhealthy obsession with Twitter, their reliance on entertainment coverage to boost their ratings, and the god awful, overly Photoshopped portrait of Campbell Brown. Instead let’s talk about their use of photography.

Still photographers have been told for years that the time was coming when video stills would be pulled from cameras that rivaled or exceeded the quality of DSLRs. In the past year, we’ve seen how the Red Camera and Canon 5DMKII have actually made this possible — Esquire published a cover image that was grabbed from a Red video. The threat to still photography is palpable, and perhaps concerning (or exciting).

And then there’s CNN.

This is the cover of their newly redesigned website. Take a look at the central image. It’s a video grab. Now tell me what it is, and why would I want to click on it?


Wanna see it a little closer?


A washed out photo with child’s “floating head”, and absolutely nothing compelling that would make me want to click on the story. My friend, Andrew, who isn’t a photographer nor works in the industry commented:

“NYT’s layout isn’t much better organizationally, but it has gorgeous type and photography. Shit matters.”

As we say on the Internet, “iawtc.”

I’m perfectly aware of the limitations of what they were working with. This is a featured video story. They didn’t have a still photographer there. But this is their brand. As Andrew said, “Shit matters.” And as much as we acknowledge that cell phones make “good enough” images to cover spot news, this isn’t one of those cases. Have individual stories within the 24-hour news cycle become so irrelevant that journalists and their publishers have lost all sense of integrity in the presentation of information?

I’m glad to see that CNN has reduced their use of strangely composited photo illustrations, but here’s hoping that they hold good photography in higher regard.

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This article was written by

Allen Murabayashi is the Chairman and co-founder of PhotoShelter.

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. The Corey at 2:08 am

    I just read a article in Wired about the time when the mp3 first started appearing. The general consensus was the file format was fatally flawed because the fidelity of the sound was nothing compared to that of the CD (and neither compares to vinyl). It will never catch on because “Shit Mattered” i.e people wouldn’t sacrifice the sound quality for a the smaller file. What happened was quite the opposite, just look at the millions of songs in our iTunes library. In this case there is a trade off , loose quality for ease of transfer, storage and portability and I agree shit does matter, but to most people, not that much. Keep feeding people a steady diet of fast food, high fructose corn syrup, bad imagery, and entertainment served up as news, and in the end, hope they keep coming back to the site.

  2. RobinB at 8:15 am

    This is where the big publishers should be thinking hard and long about the way they work. With cellphones and consumer cameras being able to deliver images and video in “good enough” web quality, the only thing that’s going to keep the big guys from being out done by the smaller publications would be the quality of their presentation. Why else is Wired magazine where they are as an online content provider, because their stuff looks so damn good.

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