Creating viral photo content is always fun and exciting – you never know what lies ahead. The most interesting thing is that no one knows for sure what content users will pick up and spread across social networks, forums and chat rooms. Sometimes the most common amateur photography becomes the basis for hundreds of memes, and sometimes very high-quality content is left without attention.
Viral content is content that Internet users actively share on social networks and messengers. Such content spreads over the Internet like a virus, from user to user, which is why it was called viral.
Let’s take a look at what characteristics photo content must have to go viral, and how to create it in order to become famous.
Why Do People Share Content?
To confirm, to illustrate your point of view, or, conversely, to discuss with your opponent. In this case, subscribers are usually divided into two camps: for and against.
To express your indignation, condemnation, contempt, or, conversely, delight, affection, support. Usually, such posts cause a counter wave of emotions.
To learn something new and at the same time encourage subscribers to self-development. Users like to save all sorts of usefulness (lists, collections, recipes, tips) for the future and share with friends.
To entertain subscribers and dilute your feed with fun, engaging content. Content that brings a smile or an intellectual thrill always has a chance of going viral.
To help the sick, the weak, the poor and make the world a better place. People love to feel needed and useful, even if their help is expressed only by repost.
Based on these motives, users share content in order to provoke their audience to a violent reaction, active feedback, which is expressed by likes, comments, reposts, making comments in individual posts or even in special media publications.
To go viral, the material must:
- Attract and hold attention;
- To punch emotions;
- Be fresh and relevant;
- Be useful;
- Be repost worthy.
Viral Photo Content Formula: STEPPS
In Contagious, Yona Berger analyzed 7,000 articles that were published in the New York Times. He identified 6 key factors that influence content virality.
1. (S) Social Currency
Fresh, unique and useful content that people share on social networks raises their social status in the eyes of subscribers, creates an image of a researcher who has unique access to primary sources.
2. (T) Triggers
People talk about what they think. And if the content gets into the information field of your audience, they will spread it across social networks.
3. (E) Emotions
Content that catches strong audience senses gets explosive reactions and distribution.
4. (P) Social Proof
People tend to repeat the actions of other people, that is, if your content begins to collect likes, reposts and comments, other people will also willingly join this.
5. (P) Practical Value
If people have found the answer to their question, were able to solve their problem, or are just planning to learn something from your content, they willingly share it.
6. (S) Stories
To convey your idea or emotion, illustrate it with a life story: people love to compose, think out and retell stories.
What Kind of Photo Content Can Go Viral?
There are many articles on the internet about what content goes viral and why. But this usually applies to various articles and information materials. Here we will collect examples of photo content, when it was the work of photographers (single shots, photo series, or whole photo projects) that became viral and spread across social networks.
1. Photo Stories, Striking Emotions
It can be a love story, a family story, a street story that will impress the viewer.
A striking example is the love story of an elderly couple, who blew up all the photo pages a few years ago. There were a lot of rave reviews, but there was also a flurry of negativity: they say, this is not a real couple, but professional models; the man, though gray-haired, is young. This controversial response caused the series to spread viral.
In fact, Irina Nedyalkova held a workshop on the Gulf of Finland and looked for older models to shoot. Valentina at that time was 62 years old, and Sergei 44 years old. They were not professional models and had never known each other before, but after filming their fees skyrocketed.
Later, other photographers began to shoot age-related love stories, trying to repeat the success of Nedyalkova. They also had viral coverage, but they have not yet managed to surpass Nedyalkova.
2. Photo Series with Wild Animals
For example, children's photos with little ducklings or rabbits cause a storm of emotions in viewers: from affection to indignation. Animal defenders stand up for the young: they say, you can't torture and squeeze them for a beautiful shot.
But even more violent reaction of the audience is caused by "love story" with wild animals, for example, with bears.
Particular attention was paid to the series by Olga Barantseva, the main character was the brown bear Stepan, which weighs almost 700 kilograms. Young models Maria Sidorova and Lidia Fetisova were photographed with him.
You may also like to read: Love Story Photoshoot: 50 Romantic Love Story Photoshoot Ideas.
The idea behind the shoot was to show the natural harmony between humans and bears. But the audience perceived this shooting very controversially. Some admired the boldness of the girls, because a bear can beat a man with one wrong movement of his paw. Others saw sexual connotations in the series. Still others felt sorry for the bear, because he lives in captivity, undergoes training and participation in the filming.
But the fact remains: such photo series go viral because they stir up feelings and affect the beliefs of the audience.
3. Parody Series
Everyone knows that girls like to be photographed more than men. There are even separate disciplines: male and female photography. That is why male parodies of traditional female poses look very cute.
This mock project was conceived by photographer Viktor Volodazky and model Timofey Trefilov. Actually, Victor takes mostly girls: on the ice, at sunset, in maple leaves, under water. But now his tape is regularly diluted with photographs of a pot-bellied man in a striped bodysuit and with a beard - in the same locations and poses.
Of course, such photo series cause a smile or even a laugh, because the female models sometimes look really ridiculous when they wriggle unnaturally in front of the camera. Therefore, such frames are very quickly distributed over the network.
4. Military Theme
This controversial topic also takes many users alive. But most of the reactions are collected by photographs of children in military uniform.
Photographer Alisa Voytashenko took pictures of children in uniform on the eve of the Victory Day, which caused different responses from the audience.
Such photo shoots cause both emotion and dissonance in the audience. On the one hand, this is a tribute to ancestors and gratitude for the peaceful sky overhead. On the other hand, it is kitsch and masquerade that wounds those who know firsthand what war is and understand that there is no place for children in war. And if children are forced to fight in a war - this is pain, helplessness and hopelessness, and not all these cute pictures in uniform.
5. Love Story and Gay Weddings
If in Europe homosexual couples and their photographs on the Internet are quite adequately perceived, then in post world war society this is still a very acute topic, which also evokes polar feelings and opinions.
If you google "Gay Wedding", you can find many photo series. For example - Denis and Anton decided to arrange a beautiful wedding in Minsk not only for their friends and family, but also for other homosexual couples in order to inspire them to openly enter into serious relationships. They registered their marriage in Denmark, and the solemn part was held in the estate near Minsk exactly as heterosexual couples do: with a photo session, a registration ceremony, exchange of bracelets, a kiss, a banquet and fireworks.
The whole holiday was organized with the hope of viral distribution of photos, including with reports in the media. And it had an effect. Of course, there were also homophobic statements, but most of the comments were positive. Subscribers wished their husbands happiness, other homosexuals supported the pioneers, and photographers expressed their dream to shoot something similar in their careers.
6. Body Positive Photography
Many social movements illustrate their beliefs through photography projects. And already quite a few photographers have taken photographs on the topic of body positive.
The project of the BuzzFeed website turned out to be viral, which showed how swimsuits from Victoria Secret would look on ordinary women with different types of figures. The photo shoot took place on a beach in Malibu, where each woman tried to recreate the pose and look of the swimwear models.
Of course, these photos scattered across the Internet, as they illustrate how advertising imposes its beauty standards on the audience, while the audience itself does not meet these standards and is complex because of this.
7. Photoshop Before and After
Almost every selection of photos before and after processing is spread by a virus to thematic publics, forums and sites for photographers and re-touchers.
Inspirational examples vividly demonstrate how processing can enhance a frame or create a picture out of nothing.
Ronnie Garcia's processing tends to replace green with blue and yellow with orange, resulting in a beautiful contrast in line with the color wheel.
8. Fresh Beautiful Location
The location, which is not beaten for the audience, with interesting footage spreads very quickly on the Internet. For example, nearby lakes has become such a location this season.
This season, several photo tours to Lake took place, and photobloggers themselves went to shoot bright winter content there.
The beauty of the ice of Lake delights not only photographers, but all Internet users. Especially Americans, who take pride in the beauty of their country’s nature.
9. Flash Mobs
Various photo-flash mobs are also becoming viral. For example, the flash mob #isolation is now popular: people use this hashtag to post their photos based on paintings by famous artists.
For example, this photo parody on pexels entitled “Men in Black” was posted on this stock site by cottonbro who works as a freelance photographer. A day later, she woke up famous: the post collected 34 thousand subscribers, and about 37 likes - and not a single negative one.
I also tried to recreate Pietro Antonio painting "Girl with a Book": including a lighting scheme, pearls from fishing weights and a tassel from the curtain for the headdress. But failed...
10. Photo Project on A Topical Topic
For example, the issue of masks is now very acute: in some countries a mask regime has been introduced, some officials reject their use. But the fact remains: the pandemic has determined the fashion for masks.
After seeing people using various materials at hand as masks, photographer took a series of photographs with different objects instead of masks. The series spread like a virus, but the author of the series had to apologize to the victims of the coronavirus for offending their feelings, although he conceived this project only to take the viewer out of the comfort zone.
11. Photo Fakes
Fake news and pictures that illustrate it are often spread on the Internet at the speed of light.
For example, this photo of a Syrian boy allegedly sleeping between his parents' graves blew up the internet. But in fact, this is a project of a photographer from Saudi Arabia, who was shocked when the Internet turned his picture upside down.
12. Photos for Stock Photos
Some common pictures become memes, and they are often used for photo stocks.
In mid-2015, Antonio Guillem traveled to Catalonia to take some photos on the topic of infidelity. The author even gave the photograph an official title - "The unfaithful man walks with the girl and looks in amazement at another attractive girl." It is still sold on stocks, but the author has not been able to earn anything from the pictures. And when they turned into a meme, the originals scattered around the world and are available for free in high quality.
If there is a certain emotion or a whole story in a photo, they become popular illustrations for political intrigue and conflict.
Or, for example, pictures with Harold hiding pain have become memes, thanks to the model's unusual smile, in which torment and suffering remain in the eyes. His photographs often illustrate news, to which users have a distrust.
There are thousands of examples. Let's briefly list which posts are becoming popular in photo publics.
Photos Charged for Viral Coverage
- Subject selections of photographs. 50 best sunsets at sea. 100 most beautiful places on Earth. Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Winners That Will Make You Smile. People share such collections because they are useful, aesthetic pleasure or good mood.
- Photos and backstage, showing how it was filmed. Such photos are very often saved for themselves, in order to then try to shoot something similar, or are shared on their walls to show subscribers the hidden kitchen of their profession.
- Portraits with a camera. The fact is that the target audience of photographers is the photographers themselves, photo models and photo publics who act as aggregators of popular photo content. Therefore, the image of a photographer is always in trend.
- Very cool shadows or reflections. If a shot is creatively played with light or reflection, the picture is almost guaranteed to become popular and gets a lot of replicas from other photographers.
- Creative work with color. You don't have to shoot especially viral content. It is enough to be cool in what you do. And then your photos will be liked, commented on and repost over and over again.
- An unusual view of familiar things. For example, drone photo selections have become popular now. Industrial factories, farm plantations or foggy Minsk - all this has wide coverage, so for the audience it is unusual and fresh.
How to Start Viral Distribution of Content on The Internet?
Adapt your photo content to the criteria of the platforms on which you post your photos. For example, for Instagram, you need to select 10 frames for a series with proportions close to a square. For Pinterest it is better to select vertical frames with no limit on the number.
Promote your posts to be seen by as many people as possible. If you don't pay for the promotion, your post just won't show up to your audience.
Offer your photos to administrators of different photo publications: they are always grateful for quality user-generated content.
Catch a hot topic using newsjacking. If you are one of the first to catch a trend, your photos will fly around the Internet. It can be a calendar holiday or a significant event in the world - it doesn't matter, the main thing is to quickly react to the news feed.
Analyze which photo series are becoming popular in photo communities, comment on them, develop your eye and try to shoot something similar.
Include your photos in a selection of cool photographers that they like to share in various groups in instant messengers and social networks.
Can You Get Famous Through Viral Content?
In fact, it is not always the case that those who post and repost cool photos sign their authorship. Sometimes it's even the other way around: you try to find the author of a photograph on the Internet, but it doesn't work, because the author's name has already been lost.
Viral photo content is often unnamed for several reasons:
- The photo was bought on photo stocks, and, accordingly, it is no longer necessary to sign the author.
- The photo was taken from the Internet, and the name of the author was not indicated - intentionally or not.
- The photo was used as a basis for the design or for the photo toad, and it was already inappropriate to indicate the name of the author of the source.
When publishing your photos, keep in mind that users are usually too lazy to sign the authorship, despite the responsibility for copyright infringement. But they are also too lazy to remove the author's watermark from the picture, if it does not interfere with the perception of the frame. Therefore, a photographer should develop his own signature so that the authorship is not lost in the process of viral distribution of content.