Creating viral photo content is always fun and exciting – you never know what lies ahead. The most exciting thing is that no one knows for sure what content users will pick up and spread across social networks, forums, and chat rooms. Sometimes, 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, so it was called viral.
Let’s look at what characteristics photo content must have to go viral and how to create it 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 resentment, condemnation, contempt, or, conversely, delight, affection, support. Usually, such social media 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 valuable, even if their help is expressed only by repost.
Based on these motives, users share content to provoke their audience to a violent reaction. Active feedback is expressed by likes, comments, reposts, making comments in individual posts, or 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, Jonah Berger analyzed 7,000 articles that were published in the New York Times. He identified six key factors that influence content virality.
1. (S) Social Currency
Fresh, unique, and valuable content that people share on social networks raises their social status in subscribers’ eyes and creates an image of a researcher with special 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 other people’s actions; 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 photographers’ work (single shots, photo series, or whole photo projects) 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 many 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 virally.
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 was 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 anger. 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, bears.
Particular attention was paid to 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.
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 audience’s beliefs.
You may also like to read: Love Story Photoshoot: 50 Romantic Love Story Photoshoot Ideas.
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. Victor takes mostly girls: on the ice, at sunset, in maple leaves, underwater. But now, his tape is regularly diluted with photographs of a pot-bellied man in a striped bodysuit and with a beard – in the exact locations and poses.
Of course, such photo series cause a smile or even a laugh because the female models sometimes look 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 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, kitsch and masquerade wound 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 gay couples and their photographs on the Internet are pretty adequately perceived, then in post world war society, this is still a sensitive 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 gay couples to inspire them to enter into serious relationships openly. They registered their marriage in Denmark. 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 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 gay 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 positivity.
The project of the BuzzFeed website turned out to be viral, which showed how swimsuits from Victoria’s Secret would look on ordinary women with different types of figures. The photoshoot 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 are scattered across the Internet, as they illustrate how advertising imposes its beauty standards on the audience. In contrast, 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 beautiful contrast with the color wheel.
8. Fresh Beautiful Location
The location, which is not beaten for the audience, spreads very quickly on the Internet with exciting footage. For example, nearby lakes have become such a location this season.
This season, several photo tours to Lake took place, and photobloggers themselves went to shoot bright winter content.
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, flash mob #isolation is now prevalent: people use this hashtag to post their photos based on paintings by famous artists.
For example, this photo parody on pixels entitled “Men in Black” on this stock site by Cottonbro 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’s 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, masks are now very acute: in some countries, a mask regime has been introduced, and some officials reject their use. But the fact remains: the pandemic has determined the fashion for masks.
After seeing people using various materials as masks, the 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. However, he conceived this project only to take the viewer out of his 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 typical 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 are available for free in high quality.
If a particular emotion or a whole story is in a photo, they become famous 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 the 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. Fifty best sunsets at sea. One hundred most beautiful places on Earth. Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Winners That Will Make You Smile. People share such collections because they are helpful, aesthetic pleasure, or good mood.
- Photos and backstage, showing how it was filmed. Such images are often saved for themselves to shoot something similar or are shared on their walls to offer 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 famous and gets many replicas from other photographers.
- Creative work with color. You don’t have to shoot wildly 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 have broad 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 ten frames for a series with proportions close to a square. For Pinterest, it is better to choose 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 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 react to the news feed quickly.
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 fantastic photographers that they like to share in various groups in instant messengers and social networks.
Can You Get Famous Through Viral Content?
It is not always the case that those who post and repost excellent 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 author’s name was not indicated – intentionally or not.
- The photo was used as a basis for the design or 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 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 signature so that the authorship is not lost in the viral distribution of content.