edu LIBRARY

How to Create Images with the WOW Factor

As an artistically motivated photographer, my goal has always been to showcase model subjects in a flattering way that generates viewer interest.  It’s the out of the ordinary, extreme and WOW photos that usually drive viewers to your Model Mayhem page, increasing image views, comments and general popularity.

The best way to achieve this from a lens selection standpoint is to toss aside your standard and ‘kit zoom’ lenses and grab some super-wide zooms and telephoto zoom lenses (the more extreme the better).  When shooting at an amazing place, or in extremely cramped quarters, a super-wide angle can provide breathtakingly expansive images that will impress your viewers, while showcasing the beauty of your location.

These four wide-angle shots were taken on a cruise boat photo shoot with the Nikon 10-24 ED Zoom, the 12-24 F.4 and the Nikon 16-35 ED-VR Zoom.


Photographer: Select Models; Model: Shodire


Photographer: Select Models; Model: Jin N Tonic


Photographer: Select Models; Model: Roxanne


Photographer: Select Models; Model: Chloe

If you don’t have the luxury of a great location, try shooting subjects with a telephoto lens at a close to wide open aperture setting.  This will toss your less than pleasing background far out of focus and display your subject in a pleasantly pastel environment.  Telephoto zoom lenses can provide a shallow depth of field, especially when your shooting close to wide open aperture, where there’s substantial distance between your subject and background.

These telephoto images where shot with Nikon lenses; the 85MM F1.4, 55-300 ED-VR (for APS-C), the 70-200 ED-VR NanoCoat F2.8, 70-300 ED-VR and 80-400 ED-VR.


Photographer: Select Models; Model: Michele


Photographer: Select Models; Model: Roxy


Photographer: Select Models; Model: Kristy


Photographer: Select Models; Model: Jessica

Do you have experience in using these shooting methods?  If so, additional feedback is always welcome and appreciated.  Thanks for taking the time to read this, and I wish you all continued success on Model Mayhem.

Select Models

Gary Abigt has been a professional photographer for over 30 years. He's a former USAF 'Alert Photographer' and NASA photographer with Rockwell International and General Dynamics. Gary is a studio owner and group photoshoot organizer, with close to 400 groupshoots conducted.

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54 Responses to “How to Create Images with the WOW Factor”

  1. August 10, 2016 at 8:29 pm, feutegraf said:

    oh man, the comments on this article are gold. After reading this article I remember thinking to myself: What a waste of time, I thought I was actually gonna learn something or pick up some tips or tricks other than “Wide angle and Telephoto lenses are cool, what do you think?”. That’s five minutes of my life that I’ll never get back…then I read the comments, this is why the internet is beautiful 🙂

    Reply

    • August 11, 2016 at 4:37 am, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

      Hmmmmm… OK… so lets see… we have Rakesh below who’s used some crazy long lenses to obtain similar effects… there is Starphoto below who’s going to purchase a 24mm lens to ‘check this out’… William below who ‘likes the concepts alot’… and Tommy at the bottom who appreciates ‘sharing the experience’. I guess it appears that reading this article was anything but a waste of time to them. What rings true in this comment is the age old saying of… ‘there are none so blind as those who will not see’… 😉

      Reply

      • August 11, 2016 at 7:23 am, feutegraf said:

        I guess I just assumed that this article was aimed at professionals and avid amateur photographers. I’m pretty sure the vast majority of photographers on this site know what a wide angle and telephoto lens do. To be honest, I’m pretty sure most pros would disagree with your advice to use an ultra-wide lens on serious photoshoot as your client would most likely be pissed that you distorted their product and not only refuse to pay for the shoot but they would probably never come back to you. There’s a reason why you don’t see these type of shots in magazines. I feel bad for your models as they are probably a lot better looking than your photos show.

        Reply

        • August 11, 2016 at 1:24 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

          Not really interested in the opinions or advice of other photographers. I create art, which has little to do with whether or not my images fall into the category of mainstream magazine publication. Several of the models showcased in my wide-angle images have included these images in their Model Mayhem portfolios… including Jin-N-Tonic in the cruiseboat elevator photo used in this article. With thousands of image views and photo listings, and over 300 positive comments made on my portfolio wide-angle images by your peers here on Model Mayhem, I rest my ‘wow factor’ case… 😉

          Reply

  2. April 29, 2016 at 10:51 am, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

    Thanks for all the comments so far… lots of interesting feedback. Hoping to spot more photographers who have used ‘very long and very short focal length’ lenses to achieve these types of images. Links to samples are welcome.

    Reply

    • August 06, 2016 at 8:36 am, Rakesh Malik said:

      I haven’t gone for the extremes like you have on the wide end (yet) — mainly because my current wide is only 35mm… 🙂
      But I have used some crazy long lenses to get similar effects — mostly so far for film, but the concepts are similar.
      It isn’t viewable publicly yet, but now that I think about it, I have had an opportunity to do some extreme angle stuff for a film… still in post. For the same film, so it’s going to be a while before it goes public, we still have some pickups to shoot.

      Reply

      • August 08, 2016 at 3:29 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

        Hey Rakesh… if you are shooting full-frame with your 35mm lens, you can actually come close to the type of effects made available with super-wide lenses. Posing, lighting and background selection is paramount in obtaining the best results… best to you.

        Reply

        • August 09, 2016 at 11:56 am, Rakesh Malik said:

          I am using a 135 camera for stills, and I’ve moved up to super 35 from super 16 for film, which is also rather nice. I’ve gotten pretty good with lighting and backgrounds. I’m studying (and practicing) posing models more, especially when I’m working with less experienced models.

          Reply

  3. April 03, 2016 at 7:39 am, Starphoto Pix said:

    The only thing is that the closer the lens to the subject the more distortion….so Im thinkin a wide telephoto would be best BUT I think I will get a 24mmm and check it out…

    I definitely would like some bokeh with my widershots, Im just gettin back in the game so I want to do it better than the last time…

    Reply

    • April 03, 2016 at 8:22 am, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

      Hey Starphoto Pix… thanks for the input. With the proper usage, a 24mm is wide enough and could provide you with the ‘wide angle effects’ showcased here… as well as being somewhat of a low cost alternative… HOWEVER… because the depth of field is so strong on wide angle lenses, achieving ‘bokeh results’ could prove to be pretty difficult. Bokeh effects are much easier to accomplish on a telephoto lens with shallow depth of field… and at a ‘close to wide-open’ aperture.

      Reply

  4. April 01, 2016 at 11:53 am, Laura A. Shodire said:

    Thank you for all the wonderful shoots, Gary!!! Nearly a decade of shooting and a million photos later, we still got the same magic the first day we met!

    Reply

    • April 01, 2016 at 3:24 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

      Always funtimes Laura… and hey guys and girls… AMAZING model here… got over 20 fantastic images of her on my MM portfolio… 😉

      Reply

  5. March 31, 2016 at 4:18 pm, E528491 said:

    Personally there are so many little things off with these photos that it is hard to take this article seriously as a fellow photographer. First of all the retouching on the models is horrible and it is glaring.
    The next problem is the lens not so much the wide angle but the wide angle lens that is being used. If this is the kinda look and style the photographer wants so be it. But for me it lacks the wow factor. It makes many of the images look cheep. And kinda goes to prove why many photographers are not a fan of Nikon 10-24 ED Zoom lens the Nikon 16-35 ED-VR Zoom.
    The glass just isn’t the finest.

    Reply

    • April 02, 2016 at 3:36 am, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

      When it comes to believing reviews on lenses, a ‘consensus of opinion’ is always held in much higher regard than the skewed opinion of one individual. At the website link below, there are over FIFTY ‘4 and 5 star ratings’ on a lens you mentioned (Nikon 16-35 ED-VR Zoom). I read those reviews, and opted to purchase that lens based on THEIR feedback. This EDU Library post provides some lens recommendations to achieve the showcased effect, with ZERO mention or regard to image retouching or editing. Your insulting critique there is a moot point.

      Reply

  6. March 28, 2016 at 7:00 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

    Hey MarcJ… thanks for the lighting kudos on image #3. There’s over 2 dozen lists and 27 comments made on that image on my MM port… and ‘not a single one’ said her face looks like candy corn. I’m thinkin you might have a sweet tooth… 😉

    Reply

    • April 01, 2016 at 2:51 pm, Marc J. said:

      The distortion is incredibly evident in that shot particular – and it’s definitely the lens doing said warping, because I’ve had shots do the same thing when using using a wide angle.

      But, hey, way to respond with a polite response,unlike the model you work with.

      Have a good one!

      Reply

      • April 01, 2016 at 3:07 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

        Hey Marc… thanks… I always try to see the bright side while tossing in alittle sugar coating… but Laura… wellllllllllll… she’s alittle more like ‘let the bodies hit the floor’… LOL!

        Reply

      • April 01, 2016 at 3:43 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

        Hope you get better soon!

        Reply

    • April 03, 2016 at 10:26 am, Farenell Photography said:

      Its customary on MM NOT to make a negative comment on a person’s picture (in their port) because its pretty much always read as being an “unsolicited critique.”

      Reply

      • April 04, 2016 at 12:50 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

        Yeah but the funny thing is… I’ve NEVER received a negative comment on that image in the past… regardless if it was unsolicited or not.

        Reply

        • April 04, 2016 at 1:40 pm, Farenell Photography said:

          Exactly my point. The absence of bad feedback is not an indicator it doesn’t exist.

          Regardless of whether a picture is poor or not, commenting on a person’s page RARELY ever goes well regardless of the intent. If a person really wishes to hear what people think, its wiser to put (whatever they want looked at) on the site’s “Critique” section & come what may of it.

          Reply

          • September 06, 2016 at 3:05 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

            This EDU entry was designed as an educational ‘lens recommendation’ ONLY with critiques being a moot point. Extreme telephoto and wide-angle portraiture definitely creates a WOW factor present in these images that aren’t attainable with anything close to a standard lens. A 24-70 zoom is a lens I would never buy

  7. March 28, 2016 at 6:02 pm, Marc J. said:

    Image 3 — the model’s head looks like candy corn — Not a good use of a wide-angle lens. The wrong wow factor for sure. Some great lighting in the shots though!

    Reply

    • April 01, 2016 at 2:42 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

      I googled you, how unwowing you are, basic models, flat photos, dim lighting, unoriginal ideas, funky cheap masks. Your port put me to Zzzzzzzzz.

      Reply

      • April 01, 2016 at 2:54 pm, Marc J. said:

        And from reading your comments on this thread, you come off as an extremely unprofessional and immature model. Your photographer must have the patience of a saint to work with you.

        Reply

        • April 01, 2016 at 3:04 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

          I’ve known Laura for almost 10 years… 100’s of great photographers have worked with her… extremely professional and talented… abundantly intelligent. She exhibited mountains of maturity at 18 years of age… even more-so now… 😉

          Reply

          • April 01, 2016 at 3:06 pm, Marc J. said:

            Based on all her comments on this thread, she certainly doesn’t display any maturity or professionalism. But hey, everyone has different standards, some people are used to working with models that are rude and classless.

          • April 01, 2016 at 3:28 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

            Quite the contrary Marc… you’re passing a false judgement on someone you know nothing about. She’s alittle more ‘bluntly honest and in your face’ when it comes to critiqueing image portfolios… always calls a spade a spade and pulls no punches… 😉

          • April 01, 2016 at 4:46 pm, Marc J. said:

            All right, after this, done feeding the troll but I’ll say my piece —

            A) Laurie, it’s very nice you rush to the defense of your friend. Sweet, even. However, by posting multiple comments towards every person that posted here that didn’t give your friend a glowing review of his article, you come off as rude and unprofessional. You’ve contributed nothing to this conversation besides the fact that everyone who now reads this thread will assume you’re a Grade A bitch.
            Get over your model mayhem/ wanna-be internet fame (which since no one has ever heard of you besides the writer of the article — trust me, you’re not famous), don’t insult other models, don’t insult other photographers, grow up and stop acting like a 13 year old boy on call of duty. The world will like you better.

            And Gary, for up-voting her insulting comments, let me just throw this out there, any respect I would have had for you? Out the window.

            Guess us East Coast photographers understand professionalism and a sense of decorum. And how to use distortion control with wide angle lenses.

          • April 02, 2016 at 2:45 am, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

            What ‘the world likes better’ (in a networking community like MM) is someone who can make a significant contribution, and be an article contributing asset to it’s society… not an insulting liability who addresses one of it’s valued members as a ‘grade A bitch’ and game playing ’13 year old boy’. The contribution I’ve made to the EDU Library has been met with several favorable reviews. Other than someone bent on spewing derogatory pieces of their mind, I see zero positive contribution Marc. On a website where ‘one’s work and images speak volumes’, you’ve proved just how insignificant an insulting rant from a REAL troll can be.

          • April 02, 2016 at 11:35 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

            You didn’t even mention my name right…or you’re bad at spelling…I checked your port…but mine ate yours before I could see it. I hope you could reach my ranks someday, but I heard…your sort of short…

          • April 02, 2016 at 11:39 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

            Don’t be mad. I googled you too hard to be so mistreated. If I were you, I’d Google myself twice a day, sometimes thrice a day, just to know how much improvement I needed. Where’s your finery or your sets?

          • April 02, 2016 at 11:42 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

            My name is not Laurie, you incomprehensible fool.

          • April 01, 2016 at 3:40 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

            You’re even moreso, look at your photos, you’re so novice it hurts. At least I have rights to boast, you should go back and and perfect your craft, you’re wasting time you could be using to improve.

          • April 01, 2016 at 3:44 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

            I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, I just meant to judge everything you’ve ever done with your life.

        • April 01, 2016 at 3:38 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

          My many, many photographers, thank you very much. Ah, but your very few models have absolutely nothing to say about you, how alone you must be, how very, very alone. They like you so little, not one has given you the time of day. You talk so big, and yet your port is so small.

          Reply

  8. March 26, 2016 at 9:10 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

    Hey Farenell… there are plenty of other EDU Library entries that discuss ‘light and shadow’… ‘specific F-Stop recommendations’… and ‘composition suggestions’. This article was designed to provide some recommendations on ‘lens focal lengths’ to achieve these illustrated effects. The ‘fancy-schmancy equipment’ you made a reference to is actually a ‘two lens configuraton’ that’s very reasonable in price. You can get a 16-85 and 55-300 zoom combination in the APS-C Nikon line-up for less than $700. Unfortunately, Nikon doesn’t make a cardboard camera… so I can’t help you there. BUT… one great camera in Nikon’s APS-C lineup is the D3300… Expeed 4 processor (for amazingly crisp and colorful JPEGS) and no ‘low pass filter’ for very sharp images… and you can get a D3300 body for around $230 on the competitive internet market. I’m NOT a Nikon rep or salesman… just a photographer who likes to shoot on a budget… 😉

    Reply

    • June 26, 2016 at 11:22 am, Tommy Lo said:

      Guys, be nice to each other!!! The pics are good, the colors and models are brilliant. Thanks for sharing your experience!

      Reply

      • June 27, 2016 at 9:07 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

        Hey Tommy… more than just describing an experience… my message was directed towards making some lens recommendations to achieve the showcased effects… and thanks for the kudos… much appreciated.

        Opinions are like rectums… everybody has them… some of them stink. In this EDU Library there are no moderators… so MM’s abundantly jealous potty mouth GWC trolls who love to hear themselves bellyache can flap their stanky gums in this thread with no recourse… 😉

        Reply

  9. March 26, 2016 at 10:20 am, Farenell Photography said:

    Not going to lie. This is a terribly written “educational” article,

    No discussion about light & shadow. No discussion about the importance of F-stop play to get the desired effect of ones depth of field. No discussion about suggestions on what to look for in composition.

    Its “educational” only in the sense of testosterone chest-thumping “look at my hot models” (which probably is more of a credit in how the models take care of themselves than how the photographer presents them) & bragging about his fancy-schmancy equipment he’s using. Which is kinda sad because a good photographer can get compelling stuff using nothing other than a camera (literally) made out of cardboard.

    Reply

    • April 01, 2016 at 2:30 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

      What’s up with your profile pic? That awful, anonymous, blurred mouthed smear of a pixelated conundrum complete with dark and soulless eyes that you call a face-lends no merit to anything you have to say, if we’re talking photos, your representation of yourself is nightmare fuel. You look like the lead star of the movie “Freaks” but shot with the first camera ever invented. If you’re going to critic someone, make sure that the very first photo you choose to represent yourself isn’t an absolute melted wax horror of a human being.

      Reply

      • April 02, 2016 at 10:25 pm, Farenell Photography said:

        “You look like the lead star of the movie “Freaks” but shot with the first camera ever invented.” My, that’s like the pot calling the kettle black. LOL

        The article writer can’t has assigned his past models to help his defense. God forbid either of you actually addressed what was written & why you thought I MIGHT have been wrong or at least to illustrate your own point of view.

        But no, since neither of you could think of anything intelligent, you resort to the lame personal attacks which kinda says more about y’all than it ever did of me. I guess that should not have surprised me.

        Reply

        • April 02, 2016 at 11:29 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

          Please, change your terrible profile picture. How hard can it be? Please, please, change it. It’s so awful. Please change it! Oh wow, googling you is super sad, I hope to warn models who work with you, how sad they’ll be.

          Reply

        • April 02, 2016 at 11:46 pm, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

          First off… I don’t ‘assign models’ (or anyone for that matter) any form of defensive tasks. I don’t operate an form of agency with zero people under contract with me. I hold photoshoots and invite photographers and models who are free spirits and attend under their own free will. BUT… I do have a confession to make… my unorthodox shooting style could be classified as alittle bit of ‘freak off the leash’… 😀

          Reply

          • April 03, 2016 at 9:22 am, Farenell Photography said:

            “I don’t ‘assign models’ (or anyone for that matter) any form of defensive tasks.”

            Are you sure about that?

            When a model comments on EVERY person with some sort of personalized attack who dared to question &/or criticize what you wrote. For me it was because she, god forbid, didn’t like my avatar, another person it was because he choose not to capitalize their name, another person his choice of editing. What conclusion are we the rest of us supposed to draw?

            Regardless though…

            I may not & still may not agree w/ what you written or how you responses but at least you stuck to what I addressed what I wrote. The same cannot remotely be said about your model friend. She injects herself into a conversation, starts speaking off the cuff about things that have NOTHING to do w/ said conversation, feigns righteous indignation because “mean, ol'” photographers are being mean because they dared to call her out on her BS. & then you jump in, jumping on the “mean, ol” photographers because they dared to be mean to the “poor, defenseless” model. I’m using hyperbole but you get the idea.

            Its like what the hell do y’all THINK was going to happen?

    • April 02, 2016 at 11:30 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

      I’m looking forward to reading your next post on chiaroscuro.

      Reply

    • April 03, 2016 at 7:41 am, Starphoto Pix said:

      Thats real…its not the tool. Its the person behind it…

      Reply

      • April 03, 2016 at 8:13 am, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

        So true… BUT… in this particular instance… without the proper tools (usage of superwide lens)… this person could not accomplish this task and the effect could not be possible. Thanks for that acknowledgement.

        Reply

    • April 04, 2016 at 10:50 am, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

      Hey Farenell… there are plenty of other EDU Library entries that discuss ‘light and shadow’… ‘specific F-Stop recommendations’… and ‘composition suggestions’. This article was designed to provide some recommendations on ‘lens focal lengths’ (with some suggested lenses) to achieve these illustrated effects. The ‘fancy-schmancy equipment’ you made a reference to is actually a ‘two lens configuraton’ that’s very reasonable in price. You can get a 16-85 and 55-300 zoom combination in the APS-C Nikon line-up for less than $700. Unfortunately, Nikon doesn’t make a cardboard camera… so I can’t help you there. BUT… one great camera in Nikon’s APS-C lineup is the D3300… Expeed 4 processor (for amazingly crisp and colorful JPEGS) and no ‘low pass filter’ for very sharp images… and you can get a D3300 body for around $270 on the competitive internet market. I’m NOT a Nikon rep or salesman… just a photographer who likes to shoot on a budget. Not really big on ‘chest thumping’ either… I leave that to gorillas at the zoo… and THERE is another great place that long focal length lenses (like that 55-300) would come in handy… as lions, tigers and bears (oh my) are best captured from a distance… 😀

      Reply

  10. March 26, 2016 at 12:16 am, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

    Hey Nick… thanks for the comment. In image #3… it’s more of Roxanne’s hair that’s somewhat distorted than her face or head. In image #4, Chloe’s foot in the bottom left corner suffered from a slight bit of distortion. Both images were slightly corrected with the ‘perspective correction’ tool available in (the free download for 30 days) version of Photobrush 5.0… an image editing program I’ve been using for over 15 years.

    Reply

    • March 31, 2016 at 6:56 am, William Thomas Cain said:

      Gary – I like the concepts a lot, but wouldn’t it make more sense to shoot so you wouldn’t have the distortions in the first place? Thus ending the need to use Photobrush.

      Reply

      • March 31, 2016 at 11:46 am, Gary Abigt / Select Models said:

        Hey William… thanks for the kudos… much appreciated. Over the many years of shooting models in wide-angle configurations, I’ve discovered that if you keep your models head away from the far corners of the frame… and instruct them to ‘bend at the waist and lean towards the camera’, using those tactics will help to eliminate some of the obvious distortion that takes place in wide-angle model photography. On those instances where those methods weren’t used, the ‘perspective correction’ tool on Photobrush definitely comes in handy.

        Reply

  11. March 25, 2016 at 10:51 am, nick said:

    I wouldn’t say 3 & 4 have a wow factor…more concerned with warped heads using a wide angle at not a very good angle!

    Reply

    • April 01, 2016 at 3:02 pm, Laura A. Shodire said:

      Ah, faceless and lowercase nick, I’m sure that Gary is proud to be the 3rd comment you’ve made in 3 years. You couldn’t even spare the time to upload a profile picture and yet you’ve plenty of time to do an extensive commentary on the accents used in The Vampire Diaries, that’s pretty damn funny. Maybe pause the show for a bit and take a minute to have a face…so I can make fun of your choice of angles.

      Reply

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