We all want to amaze our friends, family and hopefully even our raving fans with our photography, but in order to do so we need to first find out how to make our photos stand out – we need to harness the elusive “wow-factor” and have it help us define our style.

Do You Shoot to Record a Moment In Time or to Tell A Story?

This question is one you must ask yourself every time you pick up the camera. There are two types of photographs in my eyes – ones that record a moment in time and ones that tell a story. Each serve their purpose and I have nothing against either one, but I do think that photographing to tell a story is more prone to “wow-factor” photos.

That’s not to say that you can’t take good photographs of moments in time after all there are amazing and beautiful things happening all around us every day. Take this wild flower for example.

Flower

Technically it’s a good photo right? It’s sharp, composed with purpose, and processed to showcase the flower’s natural beauty, but it’s nothing more than a moment of time captured. Unless you have an obsession with white flowers this probably doesn’t jump off the page for you.

Moments in time can be spectacular though. Take this lightning bolt photograph that I captured a few weeks ago and if you’re curious you can read about out how I did it here.

Lightning

It’s a photo that many people were excited about when I published it, I’ve even sold a couple prints of it, but does it have the “wow-factor” that I’m talking about today? I don’t think so. In reality this photograph is no different than the photograph of the flower above it. It records a moment in time, but doesn’t tell much of a story. However, it is compelling in a way, and that can be attributed to the fact that we don’t typically get to see a lightning strike for more than a fraction of a second.

Still for me it’s missing the point of this post which is the “wow-factor” that comes from having a compelling story within your photograph.

So How Did I Catch A Glimpse of the ‘Wow-Factor’

Over the weekend I caught a glimpse of something that made me stop and think “wow that’s cool” and ultimately it’s what has inspired me to write this post for DPS.

I was photographing a wedding at a location where the building spans the main street through the city. I was presented with the idea of having the couple kiss under the arch of the building, but in order to do this we had to stop traffic in both directions for a couple minutes – not an easy task on a Friday afternoon so this was a one shot deal.

Couple kissing

While there are always other things to try and I’d love to have had a second, third and fourth chance at this photo I am pleased with the result of this shot. I think it succeeds in telling a story and I know that the bride and groom absolutely love it so in the end that’s what matters most to me anyway.

Three Keys To Help You Find Your Own Glimpse

I’ve been using the word ‘glimpse’ in this post because I do believe that “wow-factor” is something that for many of us will come and go until we can fine tune our aim.

I don’t believe that it can be taught specifically, but I do believe that it can be learned. This might sound kind of strange, but what I mean by this is that we each have to figure out what works for our own style through our own process. After years of experience we will fine tune our abilities and as an end result harness the “wow-factor” to define our style.

That said here are three key points for you to keep in mind every time you set out to create a photograph which I believe will help speed you along the process of creating photographs with the “wow-factor” you’re looking for.

  1. Shoot with Purpose – When you click the shutter button how often are you thinking about why you’re clicking the button? Instead try telling yourself exactly why you’re taking the photograph that you’re taking before you take it – by doing this you’ll be photographing with purpose and hopefully end up with a better shot to show for your efforts.
  2. Tell a story – A picture is worth a thousand words right? Well this cliche is only true if the picture actually tells a story. Otherwise, it’s just another photo added to the pile.
  3. Go Beyond – I didn’t have to stop traffic to get a photograph of my couple kissing in the middle of the street. I could have shot with purpose and told a story on the sidewalk or in a garden, but by going the extra mile we were able to capture a more compelling image.

I think that we all get chances to create photographs with ‘wow-factor’ in them. They don’t happen often and it takes more than simply clicking the shutter button to come up with the vision that makes a photograph something more than just another moment frozen in time.