What gives an image the WOW factor?

I was talking about this with a fellow shooter recently, he was frustrated at his composition attempts in some landscapes and puzzled about the fact that images he really liked didn’t get the feedback he expected when posted online.

Now this is a phenomenon I am completely familiar with myself, and I have put it down to one simple fact “there is no accounting for taste but if people are liking one of my images (even if its not the one I prefer they would) then THAT’S OK WITH ME TOO!”

Here is one particular example – two sunrise shots taken on the same morning about an hour apart

Taylors Mistake sunrise – click to embiggen

This image has 537 views, 6 faves and 2 comments.  When people see it on my phone or iPad, they go “oooh look at the colours”  or “where was that taken”

Taylors Mistake, the right headland and the incoming tide – click to embiggen

This image has 1213 views, 21 faves and 5 comments.  And I truly have no idea why.  Its a nice image, its got lovely warm golden tones, and a bit of sea foam and haze and has a nice feel of depth.

Honestly I have no idea why people seem to prefer the golden image to the more spectacular (in my opinion) purple and pink version.

What gives this image the WOW factor the top one doesn’t have?

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About lensaddiction

Mad keen photographer figuring it out as she goes!
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13 Responses to What gives an image the WOW factor?

  1. Jamie says:

    For me, there is something over-saturated in the first image which is why I prefer the second(:

    • lensaddiction says:

      And thats OK, lots of people would never a see a sunrise that colour and amazingness and never believe it could be real. I have tweaked the colour saturation but only a very small amount and it was mostly by adding a ND filter in LR when I processed it. I toned down the brightness of the sun a lot which makes the darker colours look more intense, but its pretty close to what it was really like.

      Again everyones preference is different too and thats also OK 🙂 I appreciate the feedback tho, without it I can’t learn!

  2. Peter Walker says:

    Personally, it’s not so much what the bottom one has as much as what the top one doesn’t. In the top one I find the water distracting to the point that I can’t find anywhere to rest my eyes and actually look at the overall image. I tend to spend the time trying to figure out what it is in the foreground (I know it’s water, but I am constantly drawn to the water to confirm what it is).

    But as a side note, if you’re talking about Flickr views, I’ve found the same dynamic and have concluded that it seems completely random how many views an image gets, depending on a number of factors.

    • lensaddiction says:

      Hey Pete, yeah I was a bit frustrated by a lack of foreground interest, so tried to compensate with capturing the foam as it came up the beach.

      Yes the Flickr numbers seem to be somewhat random, esp as I put both images in all the same groups etc *shrug* whos to know?

  3. JF says:

    I like the “golden image” more too. I think it is gentle and gives more love to a viewer. Love and gentleness are in demand in our very fast and often harsh times.

  4. pameaston says:

    I guess I’m different. The first image stopped me in my tracks. As someone who is learning about DSLR photography, I clicked to read the rest of the post. The first photo is stunning…
    Nothing against the second photo. I guess it really is about personal taste. I love colour. Having seen a Pacific coast sunset, I’m enamoured with anything that looks similar. I think the effects on the water look fantastic.
    To me the second one is a great shot, but not something that would make me click through to the post.
    Isn’t it interesting that we all have different tastes.
    Great job on both!

    • lensaddiction says:

      Thanks Pam, like I said in my original post, if people are saying nice things about my images, whichever ones they are, Im happy with that for sure!

      I think some people are put off the first image because they haven’t seen a sunrise that rich and colourful themselve so don’t really believe its real. They think its all photoshop, when really its nearly all Mother Nature in her glory.

      Sounds like I would enjoy visiting the Pacific Coast if you get sunsets like this 🙂

  5. John says:

    The bottom image shows a much larger scope, and the colours are much more intense which for me makes the image much more attractive. Both are great photos!

    • lensaddiction says:

      Hey John, great feedback and appreciate you stopped by to comment. I like both images but in different ways, it has been interesting to get other peoples POV.

  6. I too like the first one because of it’s vibrant color…was a filter applied? I understand some people are turned off if they think it’s “touched” and not natural, whereas even if the 2nd one was “touched” it looks more natural because it’s not so vibrant. I’m putting together a calendar of sea/water scape photos but it’s hard picking through photos and selecting ones you think everyone would like enough to buy the calendar, and also wondering if I should apply a wow factor filter or not! =^,,^=

    • lensaddiction says:

      The first one has had an ND filter applied in post processing but mostly to even out the light distribution – it did intensify the colours a bit at the top of the image, but I prefer a more natural look so its not really processed.

      Mostly what I did was remove the brightness of the sun in the middle yellow patch as that was washing out the whole sky just a bit.

      I agree some people may think images with that colour and intensity aren’t possible in nature, but I have sat through some amazing sunsets and I know that all sorts of things are possible 🙂

      Good luck with your calendar!

  7. KatrinaK says:

    For me, what the second photo has that the first one doesn’t is that it is obvious what it is showing at first glance. When I look at the first one I have to think about it to see that what I’m looking at is water. The colors in the first one are amazing, but it feels less like a photo of a place to me and more like a bunch of vibrant colors. The colors in the second one aren’t so shocking but they’re warm and comfortable.

Love to hear your thoughts on my post!

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