Why do we shoot what we shoot? Our personal preferences and interests most likely defines what images we capture. We probably saw something that caught our eye and our interest. But do our viewers have the same interest? Maybe, maybe not. We can’t please everyone, but our goal for remarkable photographs is for a majority of our viewers to find our images interesting to look at. So how do we pick a subject that pleases most of our viewers?
Many authors suggest something is interesting if it holds our attention or demands some degree of conscious consideration. We might say… as photographers, our goal is to cause most viewers to linger in our image. Viewers find photographic images interesting because they find the subject interesting or the presentation of the subject interesting, or preferably both. In this article let’s explore why our viewers might find a particular subject interesting. Here are 4 possibilities:
Viewers that have a Personal Interest in the subject will find your photographs interesting. A family photo of Matthew’s first birthday may only be interesting to members of our family but this small group of viewers will want to linger in the photograph because they have a personal interest in the subject. Likewise, if I have a personal interest in vintage automobiles, or birds, photos of these subjects will likely be very interesting to me. As photographers it is good to know your viewing audience.
The second reason viewers may find a photographic subject interesting is because of the Emotions or Feelings it conveys. Viewers react to emotions and feelings. They will likely have a great deal of interest in our image if it evokes emotions or feelings. So capturing a subject that results in an emotional response will likely be a popular image. Of course capturing portraits of people who display emotions in their expression is one way to evoke the same emotions in your viewers. However, images that convey emotions and feelings don’t always have to have people in them. Representative symbols and special settings also bring to mind feelings and emotions.
A viewer might also find a subject interesting if the photographer takes us to a very unusual place, or puts us in a situation we have rarely seen. A National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) study suggested that if a photo grants access to an event or place where viewers are not able to see in person they are more captivated by it. This may be why National Geographic Photography is so popular. Be ready to capture the unusual scene by carrying your camera with you wherever you go.
Viewers also love a Narrative or Story. We all want to understand the beginning, middle, and end of a good story. If your story is obvious, your viewers will most likely find it interesting to study and contemplate. The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) study mentioned above also found that capturing a story as it is happening is what viewers find most interesting as opposed to a posed scene. Before you take the photo ask, what is the story here? How do I best capture the scene to convey the story to my viewers?
So let’s recap… a viewer may find the subject of your photography interesting if the viewer has a personal interest in the subject, or the subject evokes an emotional response, or the subject takes the viewer to a very unusual place or situation rarely seen, and finally, a photo that conveys a story to the viewer will certainly capture their attention.
Creating interesting photos doesn’t always start with an interesting subject. Sometimes an interesting presentation or composition is all that is needed to capture your viewers’ attention. But a compelling subject presented well will certainly result in a remarkable photo. Choose your subject carefully and may the remarkable photos be yours.