A Memorable Photo: What makes it?

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How can any photographer take an image that will never be forgotten? For starters, quit taking nature photos, whether it’s a sunset, mountain range, lake or ocean. Those images are among the least distinctive, according to an MIT algorithm trained to recognize memorable photographs nearly as well as humans.

Amateur photographers with dreams of taking memorable images shouldn’t trek to national parks and obsess over the best composition and shutter speed. Staying at home with a goofy friend — or venturing to a quirky furniture store would deliver more powerful results.

What’s really memorable? Weird and counterintuitive images do well, according to the algorithm. A stop sign spray-painted with the word “go,” a peculiar chair, a man in a sumo suit dragging a snowboard or a shirtless man wearing a bear mask.

Conflict and suspense win — be it a pair of scissors in flight — or a man standing in front of a bear. Photos of bedrooms generally induce yawns.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.


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