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6 Ways to Take WOW Photos in Less Than an Hour

If you’re like most photographers, nothing gets you more excited than a new tip or trick that can help you make your photographs more awe inspiring. The problem is that a lot of these processes can take some time to learn and execute correctly. Pretty quickly you realize that it may take you more than a few tries to master the new technique to become a better photographer.

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A mundane parking lot light stand can become something wondrous.

You’re also busy with more than just photography to take care of, and with instant gratification pervading all aspects of our lives, who wouldn’t appreciate a few SIMPLE photo strategies that provide immediate results?

Forget about aperture and shutter speed, focal length, ISO, and all the technical stuff for now. If you use the techniques in this article, alone, or mix and match, I guarantee you’ll learn how to take WOW photos in less than an hour. I use my “Snapshots to WOW Shots” process with many of my photography classes, from grade one kids who’ve never seen a camera before, to seasoned professionals who need to inject a quick fix into their  photographic repertoire. It works for everyone, guaranteed. Give it a try!

Method One: Bird’s Eye View

In our day to day lives we see the world from a height of about five to six feet. To create a WOW shot you need to alter that perspective. Show your viewers a point of view they don’t normally see. Just about any subject can be transformed into a WOW if you shoot it with your camera pointing straight down. This is what is called the bird’s eye view.

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Looking straight down on antique silverware – a different point of view.

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Shot by one of my grade 4 students – atop the play structure, pointing the camera straight down. 

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A crazy abstract shot looking down at colored pages in a binder.

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An herbal still life shot through a glass coffee table, straight down.

Method Two: Worms Eye View

Similarly, not too many of us spend our days down on the ground. So shoot from a very low angle, and point your camera up, or just explore the world from the point of view of a worm (down on your belly!) and mundane things look a whole lot more interesting. Instant WOW shots, from the worm’s eye view.

These shots usually have the added benefit of helping to eliminate distracting backgrounds such as buildings, tree,s or other objects that you don’t want in your image. Bonus!

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Feeling so small…the worm’s eye view.

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One of my school students shot this one – taking the worm’s eye view literally, but it’s a very freaky WOW Shot.

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Taken lying on the floor of the lobby looking up at the top of the staircase. 

Method Three: Shoot at an Angle

Just as our five foot world gives us a consistently average perspective, it also provides us with horizontal lines and vertical angles. We see the world this way 90% of the time, and there’s nothing particularly WOW in that. But give your camera a twist; a 45 degree angle can add dynamism and drama, instantly!  Just make sure that it’s a big enough angle that it’s clear you did it on purpose, and not by mistake.

Buildings, trees, large objects, and even people look great with a bit of angular rotation when you want to make a point or add impact.

A bit of an angle - on purpose, give the image a more dynamic feel.

A bit of an angle – on purpose, gives the image a more dynamic feel.

A little "off kilter" makes us pay more attention.

A little “off kilter” makes us pay more attention.

Method Four: Get the Sun Behind Your Subject

There are all sorts of fabulously detailed techniques for shooting silhouettes, rim lighting, and other back-lighting effects. But really all you need to get an instant WOW Shot is to either place your subject so that the sun or light source is directly behind them, with their head or body blocking the main point of light. Shoot in manual mode and be sure your flash is off.  Point and expose for the sun, then recompose with the sun directly behind your subject.  Whether it’s an animal or a person or an object, use that subject to block the sun, and you’ll have a winner.

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Drama abounds in this simple shot – just a quick iPhone grab during a school photo class.

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Method Five: Use Shadows

Nothing tells a story more than shadows – they are ethereal, transient, and mystical. Incorporate shadows into your image, or shoot only the shadows. They always tell an intriguing story, and create a captivating image.

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Abstract or editorial, the shadow knows.

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Do you know what’s happening here – the shadows are a riddle and the answer.

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The Ultimate WOW Shots

The ultimate WOW shots are created when you use one of more of these techniques by combining elements, angles, and points of view.

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Combining the worm’s eye view AND the sun behind the subject.

A simple street scene is so much more dynamic with long shadows.

Combine shadows with the sun behind the subject. A simple street scene is so much more dynamic with long shadows.

Combine a bird's eye view with shadows. It adds interest and drama.

Combine a bird’s eye view with shadows. It adds interest and drama.

A worm's eye view and the sun behind the subject. Simple. Wow!

A worm’s eye view and the sun behind the subject. Simple. Wow!

Apply what you have learned

To wrap it all up, these five easy methods will give you dramatic results, and if you’re already proficient with a camera and have a bit of knowledge about composition, color theory, and light, you’ll be shooting like a rock-star photographer in less than an hour –  including the time it took to read this article.  If you’re already a skilled shooter, give these a try and it will help simplify your photographic life while adding more finesse to your portfolio.

Show me your WOW shots, I’d love to see how you put this into action! Share in the comments below.

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Alex Morrison
Alex Morrison

is a professional fine art and nature photographer, accredited by The Professional Photographers of Canada. She was the Canadian Photographic Artist of the Year in 2009. She teaches photography, runs workshops and online classes on fine art and nature photography, as well as infrared and iphone photography. Her educational website with photography tips is at nature-photography-central.com. View her art photography portfolio here. Alex has a coupon code for her Infrared Post Processing e-book, use DPSTKS to save $12.00.