Do media photos make men look more powerful?

Do media photos make men look more powerful than women?

Do photos in the media influence our perception of power amongst men and women? Do media photos make men look more powerful? According to a study, the angle someone is photographed from can influence how readers perceive them …

A new study has suggested that press photographs make men look more powerful than women and that the image of powerful individuals is consistently reinforced by low-angle shots.

Media pictures shot from below are seen to represent powerful people, while those shot from above are seen to represent less powerful people. As a result, the use of such angles may establish and even legitimise the power of certain people. This is especially important when it comes to issues such as gender.

The study led by Rotterdam School of Management’s Dr Steffen R. Giessner discovered that there were more photographs of women shot from above than from below, while the opposite is true of men. They tend to be shot looking up at them, thus making them look more powerful.

He adds that assuming this results in more photographs of women shot from above being used in advertisements, magazines and newspapers, the media might unintentionally increase our perception that men are powerful and women are not. This strengthens our stereotyped ideas that women cannot become leaders, as our attitudes towards, and judgment about, other people are strongly influenced by the way they are portrayed in the media.

However, their findings are not only applicable to gender bias. Analysing pictures of CORBIS®, Time Magazine, and World Press Pictures, the researchers consistently found that powerful individuals are more likely to be portrayed from below, whereas powerless individuals are rather presented by an angle shot from above. Additionally, the researchers found that in certain contexts, powerful people are not always portrayed by photographs with an angle from below – namely when the media context itself is not about power, such as on Facebook or Wikipedia.

PR: Noir Sur Blanc

Here at the Magazine we don’t think media photos do make men look more powerful – in fact sometimes quite the opposite! But what do you think? Is this something anyone other than these researchers has noticed? Let us know your thoughts below…


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Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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