Intensity In A Photograph

Americans In Cambodia by Larry Burrows (1970) – LIFE photo archive hosted by Google
Americans In Cambodia by Larry Burrows (1970) – LIFE photo archive hosted by Google

When looking through thousands of photos, the ones that really pop out and become memorable have a certain level of intensity to them. The contents of the image almost immediately invoke an emotional response in you. When that happens, you want to linger over it for a few minutes, step away, come back to it again, think some more. What is so resonating about that photo? Why does it pull you in like it does? You go home, it’s still on your mind. A few weeks later, a conversation, a feeling, or something you see brings that photo right back into your memory. It’s like that photo possesses an essence of who you are. How does a photo do that? 

Capturing people’s emotions definitely contribute to the intensity of a photo. Another great way to capture an intense photo is to capture a very intense scene. A scene were people are fighting for their life or cause they believe. Getting up close in such moments helps the viewer of the photos connect even more to the scene than if it was far off. When it’s up close, people’s facial expressions are more visible and what they are feeling can be more identified with. That intimacy with the subject creates intimacy with the viewer too. Professional photographers will connect with their subjects before photographing them because that connections comes through the photo (Photofinishing Blog). 

To create an intense photo, you do not need an intense moment. Using dramatic lighting, creative angles, and strong composition all can turn a mundane scene into something very intense and dramatic. By making a photo more intense the greatly increases it’s impact and therefore it’s memorability. Intense and memorable photos, like the one above, also tell a story. What is the story that you see and how can you tell it using all of the techniques and tools that are available to you as a photographer (Photofinishing Blog). 

Series on How to Make Impactful Photos

1. What is considered an impactful or memorable photo?
2. What makes a photo more memorable or impactful than another photo?
3. What are the key elements of a memorable photo?
4. What specific elements of a photo make it so memorable?
5. What is it about those elements that leaves such an impact on people?
6. How can a photographer make more photos that are memorable?
7. How can a photographer capture intensity in a photograph?
8. How do people’s faces affect the memorability of a photograph?


Photofinishing Blog. (n.d.). Evoking Emotion: 6 Methods for Memorable Photographs at Events. Retrieved April 10, 2014, from

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