Memorable Photos, What Are They And How Do We Make Them?

Memorable photo of Buzz Aldrin saluting the U.S. flag on the moon on July 20, 1969 by Neil Armstrong—NASA,
Buzz Aldrin saluting the U.S. flag on the moon on July 20, 1969 by Neil Armstrong—NASA,

Every day over a billion photos are created. People all over the world share millions of those photos. Some of these images emotionally move people and are seared into their memories. Those photos are looked at, again and again. They are shared and talked about while the vast majority are pretty much instantly forgotten. I refer to the photos that stand out in such a way as memorable photos

It’s extremely rare for someone to have an opportunity like Neil Armstrong did to photograph such a historical and unique moment. That photo of Buzz standing near the American flag is one of the most memorable photos ever made. It’s even on Time’s list of 100 Most Influential Photos Ever Made.

My deepest desire as a photographer is to create imagery that is memorable. I can’t wait around to make the right photo at the right time in the midst of a historic moment. It may never happen for me. So then, how can I then make memorable photos of what is immediately accessible to me? I decided to go into depth and explore what exactly is a memorable photo and how do we make them.

Who Am I?

I’ve been a photographer for over 10 years, specializing in weddings, street photography, travel, and urban exploration. My photos have been published in a few magazines, featured in a couple of local galleries, and are used on more websites than I can count. Nevertheless, I do not see myself anywhere close to where I want to be as a photographer and an artist. 

After learning what feels like everything there is know about the technical aspects of photography, I want to learn more about it from an artistic point of view. I studied well-known photographers like Walker Evans, Vivian Maier, William Eggleston, Robert Frank, and Sally Mann. While looking at their images I noticed something peculiar about them, many of their photos were very memorable. They lodged themselves into my brain, causing me to think about them often as time goes by. For example, I can see William Eggleston’s image of the light bulb on the red roof so vividly in my mind. Also, Vivian Maier’s photo of the young boy looking into a giant cardboard box in New York City will routinely pop into my mind when I think about great street photography.

What is it specifically that makes their photos so memorable, I wondered.

Boy looking into a cardboard box in New York City by Vivian Maier
Boy looking into a cardboard box in New York City by Vivian Maier

Memorable Photos Series

Understanding what makes a photo memorable has many dimensions to it. There are technological, artistic, psychological, cultural, and physiological dimensions to photos. I’m going to make this into an 8 part series including this one because of how much there is learn and write about on this topic,.

I will explore and research what has already been learned about memorable photos. I will also discuss an additional theory I have on what makes photos more memorable than others.

The articles I write will answer these seven questions:

  1. What is a memorable photo? We will view and discuss some of the photos that are considered extremely memorable.
  2. What types of photos do people remember most? This post will explore the research that has revealed the types of photos that people remember most.
  3. What are the composition techniques used in memorable photos? I shed light on the most popular composition techniques photographers leverage in memorable photos.
  4. What connects people to a photograph? For a person to remember a photo, they have to connect to it.
  5. How does the tone of the image affect memorability? Apart from the subject matter and composition, tonality also affects how we remember photos.
  6. What is visual teleportation in photography? This is a theory I have on what else makes a photo memorable.
  7. What techniques do photographers use to make memorable photos? We will learn the various techniques that well-known photographers employ that we can also use.

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What are some of the photos do you distinctly remember?

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