n my last blog post I discussed that shareable images are the key to creating engaging social media content. To make your images as viral as possible you’ll want to make them as appealing as possible.

What makes an image really memorable? Researches at MIT created an algorithm to answer that question. To gauge the memorability of pictures, people were shown hundreds of photos and asked which images were shown to them a second time. Images that were recalled on their second appearance were considered memorable.

According to the study, weird and counterintuitive images are the most memorable. For example a stop sign spray-painted with the word “go,” or a peculiar chair rated higher than a landscape. Essentially this tells us that an image that engages the viewer stimulates memory.

We asked some South African visual authorities what they believe makes a good photograph.

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Steve Marais is Cape Town based photographer that has worked with international brands such as Lipton, Ferrero Rocher and Jules. “I’d say the element of surprise. If it doesn’t visually entice you there’s not much to it.”

Colin O’Mara Davis is an award winning creative director and co-owner of motion design agency Wondermerk “It’s an intangible quality that sparks a dialogue between the subject and the viewer”

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Jono Wood is a Joburg based freelance photographer who specialises in documentary photography . He feels the key to capturing the perfect image is “being consciously present in the moment of the photograph”

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Justin Dingwall is an internationally acclaimed photographic artist. His renowned project “Albus” has been exhibited in countries worldwide including Australia and Germany. He feels that to create something beautiful “you really have to have a love for what you are doing. “

While it might take time for you to become an image expert, you can use the following photography composition techniques to refine your eye.

Rule of Thirds

Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at their intersection points. This trick helps create images which are more interesting and better balanced. The VSCO camera has a built in gridlines tool with a 3 x 3 option to make positioning easier.

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Placing your main subject off-centre, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo but it can result in a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. Social media puts a restraint on how much text is allowed on an image so filling up the negative space with text can be tricky. Rather balance the “weight” of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.

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Make use of lines in your image to direct the viewer to your subject.

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Composition of Objects

Composition is the key to a successful image – all of the elements in the frame must relate to each other to tell a story. Once again use your rule of thirds to place objects in positions that balance the overall image. Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, you have to choose our composition carefully to convey a sense of depth. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is making use of overlapping objects in the image.

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Symmetry and Patterns

We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns. These shapes can help create eye-catching composition.  Juxtapose symmetrical elements against irregularities to create peculiar and engaging images.

Different Viewpoints

Rather than just shooting from eye level play around with your perspective to create depth and interest. As with life, a different perspective can make all of the difference.

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Interesting backgrounds can create an engaging image but be careful that a subject does not become lost in the environment. Often less is more and while still perfecting your photography skill it is often best to shoot against a plain background.

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Use objects around your subject to create natural frames within your image. A frame will focus the eye on your desired focal point.


When taking your photos don’t be afraid to play. Take various options of each composition and select the most impactful image later. When selecting your final image, ask those around you for their feedback. Different objects will mean different things to different people and getting a second opinion is the best way to gauge the reception of your image by your targeted audience.

We’ll be covering more on the topics above in the following weeks. Check out the links below for more articles on social media imagery.