Photographing the Hero Shot

Sometimes you take a shot, and you just feel it in your bones that you’ll remember it as one of your best. Maybe there’s a little magic in the moment. Maybe the lighting was just perfect that day. In these instances, we thank the photo gods for lining up the stars as we hit the button.

The Marketing Lab Photographer Nadav Benjamin resized 600

© Nadav Benjamin

At first glance, you might think of Nadav as a fashion photographer. His work has deep roots in fashion, but where he strays is in his ability to capture the spirit of his subjects. The images have an unexpected compassionate quality that supersedes a fashionable image. The characters photographed come to life, and in an optimistic way … they look as though they are ready to change the world. Check him out: www.nadavbenjamin.com.

Your hero shots need to be the kinds of images that have the power to ingrain themselves into someone’s memory. So what are the attributes that make an image memorable?


What is your vision for the image? The aesthetic of an image is defined by the visual elements within the work and how they complement each other. Does the image have an authentic aesthetic? Or does your image convey a softer, more fantasy feel? Your aesthetic can either be classic or very trendy. Most importantly, your image’s aesthetic will help you get a job if it is in line with the kind of work produced by the agency or magazine you promoted to.


Personality can often open doors. A soulful portrait revealing a person’s inner beauty shows your client that you can make something special happen. Don’t think that “character” is limited to images of people. Some of the most memorable images can include shots of animals and objects with personality. Making something out of nothing demonstrates your creativity and shows how well you react to your environment, that you can think fast on your feet, and aim high with your work.


Timing is one of the most important talents for a visual artist. Timing can make or break your narrative. Timing is also about bravery and confidence – it takes guts to present an image that is spontaneous or off frame. Timing can help create a style for your work. It can bring a conceptual nature or cinematic quality to your images.


One of my favorites! Capturing emotion is a coveted gift. Images that invoke a strong emotional response are truly unforgettable.


We all love an image that is smart and makes you laugh out loud. Often, I’ve seen a humorous image make it to the coveted art director’s wall. Even if the image’s aesthetic is not in line with the work they are producing, humor can help you make a personal connection.

FYI, for a more scientific take … Four MIT students did a study on what makes a photograph memorable, presented this past June at the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition. Their number one answer was people, followed by photos taken on a personal scale – interiors and small objects, with landscapes coming in last. Check out this link for more information: http://www.popphoto.com/news/2011/05/mit-study-shows-people-make-memorable-photography.

Karen D'Silva

Karen D'Silva is one of today's most influential creatives in the commercial photography community. She founded Karen DSilva Creative Services, a trend, marketing and research company designed to help photographers understand the marketplace, find where their images fit, and profile and market to clients who share the same photographic vision. She is also currently a Creative Consultant at Agency Access.

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