Key Elements of A Memorable Photo

Whale Shark at Georgia Aquarium by Zac Wolf – Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Whale Shark at Georgia Aquarium by Zac Wolf – Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

How people perceive photographs and determine whether they find them pleasing or not is very subjective. The way in which a person identifies with a photo can depend on numerous factors, their interests, culture, job, stage in life, and many other things. Creating a formula for making the best photo is not really possible because of how varied people are. There are though common threads or elements that many well liked and memorable photos have; there are always exceptions.

One of the most obvious ways to make a memorable photo is to capture a memorable moment. A moment with great historical context that was photographed tends to be very memorable. We can name numerous life changing events and certain photos will pop into the minds of millions of people. What images come to your mind when you think about the attack on September 11, 2001? World War II? President Obama’s 2008 election campaign? Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone to the world? 

Not every photographer gets to be in the middle of a historical moment constantly throughout their lives. Apart from historical moments, there are elements of photos that help make common and everyday moments and scenes very memorable and interesting. There are the things we see and experience almost everyday of our lives, we give no thought to many of them. When a photographer makes a photo of something we are so familiar with in an angle or perspective we have never experienced it before, it frequently becomes instantly memorable to us. In an article published online by The Telegraph, photographer Giles Price said it well, “Ultimately good photography is about looking at the world differently. I like photographs that run counter to perceived ideas more than ones that uphold them, the image that makes me rethink the way I look at whatever the subject matter is” (Price, 2014).

Another very important element that can be found in almost all of the most famous photos seen around world, is emotion. Landscapes may give people a strong sense of appreciation for the beauty of scene, often though, they do not incite strong emotional responses (Peterson, 2013). Look at the image above, you can see kids and adults staring up at the shark whale as it swims by. It’s easy to imagine the excitement the children must be feeling and the pleasure the parents experience knowing their children are enjoying this moment. The adults are probably feeling a wide range of emotions, awe, fear, excitement, curiosity, and happiness. We can relate to all of those feelings. Those feelings being invoked while looking at an image helps make it so much more impactful and memorable compared to photos that do not invoke such feelings.


Peterson, D. (2013). How To Take Memorable Photos. Digital Photo Secrets. Retrieved March 28, 2014, from

Price, G. (2013, February 28). Giles Price: what makes a good photograph?. The Telegraph. Retrieved April 4, 2014, from

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