Thursday, June 4, 2009

Ten Top Reasons Photographs Say WOW

Beyond all the rules of photographic is the intangible WOW. WOW happens at lightening speed in the viewer's mind. They know WOW and perhaps they can not explain why they were WOWed.

So how can the photographer achieve WOW in the viewer's mind? To reach this intangible are some tangible hints.

1. The medium is the message: Marshall McLuhan theorizes on the effect of media on the mind. In the Wikipedia explanation is a good start in understanding the relationship of the viewer's mind in response to media. And of course photography is a medium.

2. Tonal quality: Tonal quality can add sensual undertones. These can be over stated or under stated. And, I suppose this relates to style. Even in Black and White photography the tones of transition can have a deep effect on the viewer mind. In color photography, I try to achieve a pleasing smoothness to acquire that eye candy feel. Other photographers delve into harsher tone transitions. The real point is to offer something unique that is not found in snap photography. Tonal quality is an evolving process for me, and it has been part of the evolution of my style.

3. Style: Style is the fingerprint that an artistic photographer places on his photograph. Style can be achieved from the compositional elements, the post processing techniques and even the camera settings, or the kind of camera a photographer uses.

All of these elements really have a bearing on style. And each good photographer develops his unique approach. Many photographers try to emulate work.

Imitation may be the best flattery, but learning from others then evoking your own style should be your goal. Style is a process that grows with the photographer. As I look through my photographs, I definitely see a progression. I have posted most of my work on Flickr and a time line of development can be noticed.

4. Atmosphere: What photographs are likely to send a viewer into orbit?

I have found that atmosphere can be a deciding quality. A foggy scenes taken in the woods, a mountain landscape or a river scene adds immensely to the visual appeal of the viewer. I look for these atmospheric events to add accent to my photographs. I know when nature interacts it positively affects the WOW.

5. Interaction: When people or animals interact in your photographs you tell a story.

You have one frame to tell a story. Your subject can interact with others or even the viewer. A one frame story does not have to be the whole story. If it leaves something unsaid the better. Letting the viewers interact with their own musings is the ultimate in making a photograph interactive.

6. A sense of mystery: We always enjoy the imponderables. If our photographs can inspire a viewer to reflect we will hook the viewer.

I really can just can't tell you how to do a photograph with a sense of mystery. I can give you a hint. It is all in how the photograph leads the eye. If you can lead the eye into a deeper more provoking space you may achieve the sense of mystery.

7. A sense of disbelief: In good novels an author who can suspend the sense of disbelief can consume the reader.

The same is true for the artistic photographer. No photograph is an exact representation of reality, even snap shots. Reality is changed from three dimensions to two. Colors light and contrast are different from what reality presents. How effectively a photographer makes this transition depends on his ability to suspend the viewer's sense of disbelief.

8. Thematic Photography: Thematic photography helps a photographer develop his specialty and evoke style.

Thematic photography can broadly span the photography a person does. Nature, politics, sports, journalism and even wedding photography can promote certain styles.

Personally, I present two themes in my photography. I find it interesting that each have evolved separately. My style in nature photography is different than my race car photography. Themes help build a photographer's evolution in creating style and his own personal WOW factor.

9. Conceptual Photography: The idea here is to covey a concept.

As a nature photographer I am constantly emphasizing the importance of nature. Photographs are subliminal messages.

Other photographers have other messages in the photographs. I do not always agree with their message, but I appreciate the style and delivery. Every time you can inspire a viewer to think you are tapping into the WOW factor.

10. Originality: Perhaps you have gleamed from my last nine points an emphasis on originality.

If your photographs fall into a general commonality with others you are not exploiting the WOW factor.

Photoshop tutorials tend to lend to that commonality. And while I do suggest you explore these, you might try striking out on your own plowing new ground of creativeness. After all, only if you are different will you truly tap into the WOW factor of your viewers.


  1. Great stuff man. Love the blog.

    Keep it up.

    "Chris is Starving!"