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In a study conducted by the National Press Photographers Association, researchers found that participants were able to distinguish professional photographs from amateur photographs 90 percent of the time.
Sara Quinn, the head researcher, disclosed the results from this research during a speech on Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, at 3:45 p.m. in Studio 100 at the University of Georgia.
The study was conducted last May at the University of Minnesota where 52 participants were shown 200 photographs.
Of the 200 photographs, half of the images were professionally created while the other half were taken by the general public and published by some outlet.
“Professional photojournalists took each of the 25 photographs rated highest from the collection of 200,” Quinn said.
The use of an eyetracking device also showed that professionally shot images were viewed longer than the user-generated photographs.
The eyetracking device was used to record eye movement of the participants, showing researchers where the participants looked, how long they looked for and if they read the captions.
“People look first at faces,” Quinn, said.
The eyetracking technology showed that most people are drawn to faces and interactions, making them feel connected to the subjects within the photograph.
The study also found that more attention was given to longer captions, and that the user-generated captions were typically underdeveloped.
Participants also filled out a survey rating the quality of the photographs from 1 to 5 along with their likelihood of sharing the image.
The professional photographs were not only rated the highest but were also more likely to be shared than the user-generated images.
Many participants also said that they enjoyed the feeling of special access the pictures were able to generate as well as storytelling elements within the frame.
“It was interesting to see the how the latest technology is showing how much photographs matter,” Charles Boll, a photojournalism student at the University of Georgia said.
Mark Dolan, the president of the NPPA, said that he was not sure how the project would turn out but is pleased with the results.
Photojournalists will also be happy with the results, proving professional photographs are still valued even in a time where most people have access to some type of camera.
Quinn’s speech was part of a series celebrating the NPPA’s move to Grady College at the University of Georgia.
She is also planning on sharing the findings of this research with advertisers for online news publications.

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