A memorable photo is considered memorable because it is “worth remembering or easily remembered, especially photos people view as special or unusual” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Photographs are definitely something that people find to be memorable. Memorable photos are the images that we can recall in vivid detail and think about over and over again. But we don’t do that for all of the images we see, just certain ones for different reasons.
This is part 1 of a 7 part series about memorable photos.
When doing a Google search for memorable or famous photos, a lot of the same photos come up on various websites. Most of them are memorable because of the historical moment they represent and many of the times tragic moments. The photo of the burning monk, tank man in China, the Earth from the moon, John F. Kennedy Jr. saluting his father at his funeral, the migrant mother, the sailor kissing the nurse after WWII, Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston, and many others.
These images have been seared into our consciousness because they represent iconic moments in history. They are reproduced and displayed in classrooms, documentaries, news articles, and books. They teach us about humanity and our history. These photos are remembered because of the very special circumstances that surround them.
Those aren’t the only memorable photos though. Those are photos that we collectively as a society remember. There are other memorable photos that very few people have seen, that are unremarkable in quality and historical significance. These photos are typically family photos that represent a significant moment for that particular family’s history. It could be the last time a person spent with a loved one, the birth of a child, and a wedding portrait with the whole family in it.
These kinds of photos are also worth remembering because of the joy they bring us in our own individual lives. One of the unique things about family photos is that the quality of the image has little impact on how memorable it is. It could even be a blurry photo but if it captures that time grandma was laughing two days before she passed away, you won’t forget it. Sometimes we never forget these types of photos to the point that our memories and the photos are one and the same.
Photos can be memorable because of what is missing in the photo or the false reality the photo represents. For example, an outside person can view a photo of a dad sitting happily at a table eating dinner with his son as a sweet memory. But to the son, it represents the dad he wished he had, a father that was present and happy. But in reality, after years of abuse, his father abandoned the family when he was still a child. That photo represents not a memorable moment, but a lie, a lie he wished was true. Those kinds of images have a huge impact on whether we remember them or not.
Other Memorable Photos
There are many other types of scenarios that make a photo memorable. The main two are historical significance and family history. Artistic photos can be extremely memorable, scientific photos, nature photos, and travel photos of faraway places. These can all uniquely become part of our individual memories in an endless amount of ways.
The main thing to understand about memorable photos is that they are the photos that are easily and frequently recalled from your memories. Next time a photo comes into your mind, think deeply about it, ask yourself, “Why do I remember this photo?”
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 a 7 part series including this one because of how much there is to 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:
- What is a memorable photo? We will view and discuss some of the photos that are considered extremely memorable.
- What types of photos do people remember the most? This post will explore the research that has revealed the types of photos that people remember most.
- What are the composition techniques used in memorable photos? I shed light on the most popular composition techniques photographers leverage in memorable photos.
- What connects people to a photograph? For a person to remember a photo, they have to connect to it.
- How does the tone of the image affect memorability? Apart from the subject matter and composition, tonality also affects how we remember photos.
- What is visual teleportation in photography? This is a theory I have on what else makes a photo memorable.
- 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.
Leave a comment letting me know what are some of the photos you remember most.