Images of Somalian pirates, the Haiti earthquake and the first people to walk on the moon are some of the famous shots to have changed the world emotionally, financially and dramatically, a photography expert said.

Getty Images vice president of photography Stuart Hannagan spoke to the Herald ahead of World Photography Day on August 19.

He wanted to celebrate images for their societal good and power to evoke emotion.

Somali pirate chief Abdul Hassan, 39, carries a rocket-propelled grenade to a small boat on a beach near Hobyo. In 2008, the group attacked 29 ships. Photo / Veronique de Viguerie, Getty Images
Somali pirate chief Abdul Hassan, 39, carries a rocket-propelled grenade to a small boat on a beach near Hobyo. In 2008, the group attacked 29 ships. Photo / Veronique de Viguerie, Getty Images

One of his favourites was of Princess Diana looking into the eyes of an HIV-positive child. Hannagan said that changed the tone of what royals could do.

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"All of a sudden we had a princess in Brazil in a hostel of abandoned children being engaged in that child ... She changed the world.

"If that photographer had looked away for a few seconds they wouldn't have gotten that picture."

Another of his other top picks included the image of a silverback gorilla being carried out of the Democratic Republic of Congo after it was slain by poachers. He said the image had taken weeks to organise and the photographer had spent days trekking in the jungle. It helped raise over $50million for gorilla conservation.

A photo of Princess Diana looking into the eyes of an HIV-positive child changed the tone of what royals could do. Photo / Tim Graham, Getty Images
A photo of Princess Diana looking into the eyes of an HIV-positive child changed the tone of what royals could do. Photo / Tim Graham, Getty Images

An example of an emotionally powerful image was the shot of the young Syrian boy, caked in dust and wounds sitting solemnly in the back of an ambulance.

It showed that even though technical ability was important "nine out of 10 times" it was about being in the right spot at the right time, Hannagan said.

"This is the image that evoked so much conversation. People wanted to know who he was, what happened to him, who he was with, is he okay?

Wounded Syrian child Omran Daqneesh, 5, in the back of the ambulance after a Russian or Assad regime airstrike in Aleppo on August 17, 2016. Photo / Mahmud Rslan, Anadolu Agency, Getty Images
Wounded Syrian child Omran Daqneesh, 5, in the back of the ambulance after a Russian or Assad regime airstrike in Aleppo on August 17, 2016. Photo / Mahmud Rslan, Anadolu Agency, Getty Images

"It's what you call just 'a grab', just a moment. The photographer thought 'I've got to follow this kid'. I bet this boy's face haunted him quite a bit."

The biggest changes in the photography industry were the speed of delivery and the power of social media. More people were taking and sharing photos than ever before, Hannagan believed.

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A view of Earth appearing over the Lunar horizon on July 20, 1969, the day Apollo 11 astronatus Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin Jr became the first men to walk on the Moon's surface. Photo / Nasa
A view of Earth appearing over the Lunar horizon on July 20, 1969, the day Apollo 11 astronatus Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin Jr became the first men to walk on the Moon's surface. Photo / Nasa
Rhinos are captured at eZulu Game Farm in Grahamstown, South Africa, for relocation to protect them against poachers. Photo / Brent Stirton, Getty Images
Rhinos are captured at eZulu Game Farm in Grahamstown, South Africa, for relocation to protect them against poachers. Photo / Brent Stirton, Getty Images
US National Guard troops block off Beale St in Mephis, Tennessee, as Civil Rights marchers wearing placards reading
US National Guard troops block off Beale St in Mephis, Tennessee, as Civil Rights marchers wearing placards reading "I am a man" march past on March 29, 1968. Photo / Photoday