What Makes a Powerful Photo?

As a most sought after lifestyle, fashion and commercial photographer in Miami, New York City and Los Angeles, Mark DeLong knows a thing or two about what makes a powerful photo. If you’re interested in successful marketing for your business, you must have effective content marketing photos.

 Lifestyle Campaign for Dassault Falcon

Lifestyle Campaign for Dassault Falcon

Why Professional Photography Is So Important

The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is more true than ever. In the modern world, people want digestible content, and they don’t always have time to read a long article to get the information they need, especially if that information is marketing based.

People also remember pictures much easier than they remember words. Whether you’re a lifestyle photographer in NYC, an editorial photographer in Miami or an advertising photographer in Nashville, the success of your project may depend almost entirely on the power of your pictures.

So, what makes photos for content marketing powerful? How can you make your online ad photos, fashion spreads and editorial shots jump out and grab the viewer’s attention so you can reach your marketing goals?

Elements of a Successful Photograph

A successful photo starts with a great image. Your lighting, composition and the overall quality of the image has to be just right. If the colors aren’t vibrant, the staging isn’t eye-catching or the picture does not look professional, the viewer is not going to focus on the image long enough to appreciate the content.

Needing someone with the skills to take a great-looking photo is a given, but a powerful photo takes a great photo to another level. Great photos and great-looking photos aren’t necessarily the same thing. Once you have the technical aspects down, you need to focus on the content. Here’s a look at what features of content make a photograph powerful:

1. Authenticity

A powerful image is one that looks real. Remember, you are trying to evoke an emotion — a genuine feeling in the viewer that connects them to the photograph. You want your viewer to mentally put themselves in the photograph, or at least, feel like they are in the same space as they view it.

If a photograph looks staged, that’s hard to do. Of course, we all know professional photographs are staged to some extent, but to be a truly powerful photograph, it can’t feel that way.

 Eugenio Derbez for American Airlines

Eugenio Derbez for American Airlines

2. Archetypes

Pictures that make use of classic archetypes speak to something deep in our DNA that we have to respond to. These archetypes have been effectively used in storytelling for years, and photography is visual storytelling.

If your pictures have human subjects, consider building them around these classic archetypes like the Explorer, the Hero, the Caregiver or the Lover. These are ideas and images most people can relate to, and if you can connect them to your product or message with your photography, you are much more likely to create a successful campaign.

 Lifestyle Campaign

Lifestyle Campaign

3. Originality

One of the most effective ways to create a meaningful photographic image is to take a picture of a subject in a way that no one has ever seen before.

You can see the challenge of, for example, photographing an archetype in a way that conveys that age-old message while doing it in an entirely new way, but that’s why taking a truly great, powerful photograph can be so difficult.

 Fashion Editorial

Fashion Editorial

4. Timelessness

While you want your pictures to be culturally relevant, you also want them to convey a message and a feeling that is meaningful now and into the future — ten years, one hundred years or even possibly one thousand years from now.

Because a photograph is a moment in time, capturing a timeless image is a great way to produce a powerful photograph.

 Lifestyle Campaign

Lifestyle Campaign

5. Personal Investment

If a photograph is not powerful to you, it probably won’t be powerful to anyone else. Taking a picture of what you think other people will respond to, even if you don’t, probably won’t produce the best pictures. Take photographs of subjects that evoke a response in you, and you will have a better chance of pulling that response in others.

Even if you can’t choose your subject specifically, as you may not be able to if you’re a lifestyle photographer in LA, for example, you can choose how to edit and frame that subject. Work with those features you can to create an image that speaks to you. Then, you can convey the desired feeling to others who will be viewing the image.

 Personal Project, Bangladesh

Personal Project, Bangladesh