What People Remember About A Photo

A Red deer Cervus elaphus, in Freyr forest, near Han-sur-Lesse, Belgium by Luc Viatour – Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
A Red deer Cervus elaphus, in Freyr forest, near Han-sur-Lesse, Belgium by Luc Viatour – Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Discovering what people actually remember about a photo when recalling it in their minds can help photographers create more impressive images. A lot of photographers want their images to endure in the minds of their clients so they come to mind when a photographer is needed. Making more images that are impactful and memorable will definitely help photographers establish their career. After understanding the importance of creating memorable images and some of the techniques used to make them, it’s useful to know what exactly are people remembering about photos when they recall them. 

A research study conducted by several people from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology made several discoveries on what aspects of images are more memorable than others. The article What makes an image memorable?, published in the Journal of Vision in 2011, pointed out man specific photo elements that resonate with viewers most. They discovered that there is a range of different aspects that impact a photo’s memorability, from the colors used to the type of subject. 

They discovered that people remember red colors more than any other. After red, from green to blue and then to purple, the memorability of a photo declines. They suspect that is because warmer tones are closer to the tones of human faces. 

When it comes to how much space the subject occupies in a photo, they did not observe any difference in how well people can remember a photograph. Whether the subject was up close or far off, it appeared that did not have much of an impact at all. The number of objects in an image did not appear to either help or aid memorability either.

Their research found that the type of subject has a huge impact on what people are able to remember about photo. Images of people, interiors, foregrounds, and human-scale objects were much easier for people to remember. Photos of exteriors, wide angle vistas, backgrounds, and natural scenes decreased the memorability of a photo. 

When making a photo you want people to remember, consider the subject you are photographing and see how you can maximize the impact of your photo on a viewer. Also, consider the colors and how to leverage them to create a beautiful or expressive photo that people will remember for years to come. 


Isola, P., Xiao, J., Torralba, A., & Oliva, A. (2011). What makes an image memorable?. Journal of Vision, 11(11), 1282-1282.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.