Have you ever seen a member of the press huddle together before a premiere, movie, or event, all red-eyed and flustered, heads bowed in quiet desperation, as if some kind of prayer or good luck ritual would help them uncover some great news?

I don’t know about you, but when I see these photographers and reporters frantically trying to scrounge up some scraps of gossip or unfinished press releases, I can’t help but feel a little bit bad for them. It’s like trying to glean news from a nightmare. You’d think with all their superior smarts, they’d be able to work out what’s going on, but usually it’s just a matter of time before they give up and walk away, defeated.

I’m talking, of course, about the bat-signal.

How Does The Bat-Signal Work?

I’m sure you’ve seen this ritual before. Some director, producer, or star will go red in the face, either from anger or exertion, and squinting back at the camera with a menacing glare, will frantically point, jump up and down, or throw their arms up in the air, as if to say, “Get this in you pricks! I’m trying to work!”

Now, you might not think that this is a particularly amusing sight, but I assure you, for those at the receiving end of this performance, it can be quite comical. Especially when you consider how frustrating it must be for these poor souls, trying to do their job in a professional manner whilst being pelted by a barrage of rotten, stinking fish.

This is why, when the bat-signal goes up, the photographers scramble to get their cameras and notebooks out. They know this is their chance to scoop the story before it gets stale. Sure, they might have heard something earlier on, but this is unlikely to be what’s making the star go red in the face. So, when they see this, they know they’ve got their work cut out for them. They’ve got to make the most of this opportunity and get the story.

Why Does It Work?

What is it about this particular scene, whether it’s during a movie premiere, or an event like the London Olympics, that makes it perfect for a few choice words and a glare that could knock a hole in brick wall?

Anger is one of the most powerful motivators. In fact, it can be argued that it is the most powerful. Why? Well, it can stir people up. Get them roused. Make them react. Get the adrenaline pumping. And when the adrenaline’s pumping, your chance of uncovering some great exclusive story is substantially increased. Just look at all the scoops that have come from breaking news reports of murder, fraud, or scandal when it’s been used as a source.

In an age of information overload, where people are constantly swamped with notifications for products, services, and offers, it can be easy for important news to be drowned out by all the other stuff. Stories that would have once been passed around in whispered tones, amongst journalists and other experts, are now being shouted at the tops of people’s lungs.

So, while this might not seem like the most appropriate moment for a serious chat, when the bat-signal goes off, people listen. Especially if you yell loudly enough, people will eventually hear you. Even if it’s just to say something like, “Shut up! I’m trying to work.”

This is why all the fuss is made about the bat-signal; because, even if it’s just one person, that person’s intensity can provoke a reaction that can uncover some amazing thing. Sometimes it’s a scoop, other times it’s just a storyteller being a dick.

Does it work? Yes. Does it ever work? Yes. Does it ever fail to work? No. Not once. Ever. You’ll just end up with some blurry film of a confused-looking individual, and the story will probably be already run by the time you get around to writing it up, anyway. So it’s just a waste of time.

Why Are The Photographers Red-Eyed?

Do you see a trend here? Everything from the outfit to the attitude is perfect for causing a red-eye.

It’s fairly well-known that the color red can be quite aggravating to the eyes. Especially when displayed in front of a camera. A bit like looking at a sunset or a sunrise, the angle at which you look can make a difference. When you look directly at the sun, it can cause you to squint and, if you’re not used to it, temporarily ruin your eyesight.

Red-eye can also be caused by a reflection off a camera’s lens, or simply because you have bloodshot eyes. This is why most photographers, and pretty much all those doing investigative work, will wear sunglasses when taking photos of someone whose eyes are going to be glaring at them.

So, in short, if you want to prevent or reduce red-eye, don’t stand in front of a sunset or sunrise. Or look directly at the sun. Also, make sure your camera is set to the correct angle, so it doesn’t reflect off any shiny objects in the vicinity. Finally, make sure your eyes aren’t bloodshot before you start documenting an event. If they are, then it’s best to wait till the end of the day, once the adrenaline has subsided a little.