Gray’s Anatomy – I Really Heart That Photo

Wow, another whirlwind week has passed us by and it’s Friday again, that means just one thing around here, Richard Gray’s ‘Gray’s Anatomy Column’. This week Richard laments true love and discusses the importance of a good old fashioned ‘thumbs up’. Don’t miss this, over to you Richard…(foreword by Joanne Carter).


‘It may be tempting fate for a blog to play down the importance of words. And sometimes people bemoan the “like like like” culture of social media. It’s all so impersonal, they say, it’s too easy just to click the heart button. On Instagram, if you get a certain number of likes, you get on the popular page, or whatever they call it now, whereupon your like numbers go astronomical. In the mobile photo sharing world, I was intrigued to see that a new kid on the block, 500px, not only allows you to heart (or like) a photo, it also gives you the option of giving a photo a “thumbs-up”. Which got me thinking. Could you heart a photo but not thumbs-up it? Or the other way round? If you heart it, are you saying that it gets you right there, that it moves you? But if you don’t also give it a thumbs-up, are you saying, OK, it moved me but – you just got lucky. But if you just give it a thumbs up without the heart, are you saying, yeah, nice technique, cool effect, but it doesn’t really do it for me. Or perhaps there’s a system I don’t know about. Maybe a thumbs-up is worth half a heart. Or to use a golf analogy, perhaps you can have the right idea for a shot but you just execute it poorly (like many of my putts), in which case you get a heart but not a thumbs up. And don’t get me started on all the other emoticons. Is it good when someone gives you that classic combination of a smiley, a clapping hand and flamenco dancer?

But there is a serious point to hearting a photo. Sometimes words can’t do justice to how you feel about an image. It’s not that you haven’t got the time or the inclination to find the words to express why you like a photo. Sometimes it feels like trying to put your feelings into words would somehow diminish or limit your own feelings about it. I know this because I was asked to do some judging in a competition, Photobox’s Motographer of the Year, and you have to give a comment to each of your decisions. I quite like analysing a photo and saying why I think it’s good, but I sometimes read back my words and I think, yes, it is a good composition and I love that colour and that expression on that man’s face is great, but, I also just, well, like it, with my heart. And thumbs’.



© Richard Gray – ‘Sometimes a smiley is worth a thousand words (featuring fellow App Whisperer columnist, Dilshad, aka @italianbrother)’.

Richard's mobile photography has been exhibited around the world and published in various magazines and on many websites. He launched the world's first live course in iPhone photography in early 2012 with Kensington and Chelsea College. He has given workshops with The Photographers' Gallery and British Journal of Photography. Sport England recently commissioned him to cover various of its Sportivate initiatives with the iPhone. A keen observer of this new photographic genre, his writing has been widely published (most notably in The Guardian) and he writes a blog (iphoggy-bloggy). With a big camera, he specialises in music photography ( and syndicates to Press Association (with both big and small cameras).


  • Geri

    I ♥ the article and give it two thumbs up! Seriously though, I read somewhere that looking at an image that moves you at the heart level does have a positive effect on a person.

    • Richard Gray (@rugfoot)

      Oh yes, totally, we look at photos because they get us …. there. Which is very positive. They work on a very basic level I think and no matter how much we analyse it’s difficult to say why. Thanks for the two thumbs! (insert here smiley face).

  • Janine Graf

    That “<3" was supposed to turn into a heart icon. 🙂 Hands in the air works too, "woot woot"!

  • Dilshad

    And I completely missed this one!! as always: wise words from the Master! hearts, thumbs up, flamenco and rumba dancers, smileys and the lot for you mate!