It you want a big audience look for subjects with universal appeal.
Images attract a wider audience by pulling our primeval heart-strings. There are some subjects we cannot ignore. They are timeless and deeply ingrained. One of those is undoubtedly the ‘cuteness’ factor.
In “A tip for connecting your viewer with your photo” I discussed targeting your photograph. The idea was to focus where you show your pictures to capture an audience. Finding subject matter with a strong pull makes your targeting easier. A subject with universal appeal needs little or no targeting.
Some basic needs motivate strong reactions in us. Need for air, water, food, clothing and shelter are strongest. Then safety needs – personal security, health and a safe environment. Next we consider love, group membership, family, friends and intimacy to be important. These lead, naturally, to procreation. All species have a strong need to survive and breed. We share strong nurturing behaviours with mammals. We support and protect our young and are deeply connected to them for that purpose. Those features of the young that prompt our protective behaviour are common to most species. We easily recognise them. These features motivate protective behaviours. One label we use for this recognition is ‘cute’.
The cuteness factor
The features we find ‘cute’ that set off our protective response are pretty clear…
- Big round eyes
- little features
- baby characteristics
- fluffiness (not hairiness)
- Small feet/hands/paws
- Lack of co-ordination/inexperience
- Youthful frailty/unreserved trust
- Enlarged head relative to the body
- Vulnerability/juvenile incompetence/minor hurt/learning
- Snuggled down/nesting/helplessness
- Feeding naturally with mother
- Strong emotions of enjoyment, joy, hurt, love, etc
There are also some features not listed which are important to us. Smell and sound are examples, but perhaps not strong photographically. Although, you might mimic them in images, for example a baby obviously crying.
The cuteness features listed are found in most mammals and in some other creatures. They are mainly the endearing characteristics of our own young. So when we see them in pictures of babies and children, or even ‘cute’ adults, we project our natural protectiveness on them – “Awww, cute!”
Our biological response to our own young shows we have a strong reaction to certain characteristics. As humans we can also project that protective response onto our babies, children, pets, livestock, animals; even toys, clothes ideas and well… all sorts of things. This projection, in photographic terms, I call the ‘cuteness factor’. If you capture these features appealingly in photographs you have a ready made audience. One that is biologically programmed to like your shots.
The cuteness factors above are not exclusive. Why not comment below and extend the list. I am sure that you can think of other things that motivate strong protective behaviours through cuteness.