Image Complexity & Format

I can’t even write this first paragraph without checking my phone. Pathetic. A human’s attention span is now shorter than a goldfish’s—8 seconds. As a photographer, I want to understand how our shortened attention spans effect the consumption of our images. I often find myself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, (when I don’t remember opening the app), and visually chugging content with my eyes glazed over. Some out-of-body force keeps my thumb scrolling, knowing that there are endless images to digest and more incredible photographs on my feed that I need to see.

But can I really digest an image properly on my 2.6-inch-wide-screen? The format in which we view images has a drastic effect on the readability for the viewer. In my transition from photo essays at Ohio University to daily newspaper assignments on my internship at The Post and Courier, I am learning the value of simple images in a smaller printed format. However, there is a fine line between a readable image and one that is too simple that doesn’t hold the viewer’s attention.

The following images from my internship are ordered from least complex (can be read at a small size) to most complex (better viewed at a larger size). Which one holds your attention longer than the others?




I often share my work on Instagram, where I feel that more simple images are more successful on a small screen. From my perspective, Instagram inherently limits the capacity to view and share complex, nuanced storytelling images. I wonder about the future style of visual storytelling as we shift toward smaller digital devices.


Photographers: does format affect which images you share? Do you make an effort to digest photos in different formats?


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