4 Steps to Taking Your Photos To The Next Level of Epic

Although my work ranges from dangling people off the edge of rooftops, to tying them down in underwater shipwrecks, to lighting them on fire—I recently discovered four steps in the process that have remained consistent year after year.

Step 1: Eliminate Mediocre Ideas

A good rule of thumb is to make sure that your idea can be summarized in a single sentence. If you can’t summarize your idea in a single sentence, chances are that it’s not catchy enough or needs to be tweaked further.

On some occasions, the process can be just as exciting—if not more than the final result. Do not be scared to experiment and fail, but don’t invest time in something ordinary.

Soccer ball on fire. Nice start. Maybe we can push this concept further?
Soccer ball on fire. Nice start. Maybe we can push this concept further?

Step 2: Discover The Magic Combination

Unexpected combinations tend to yield exciting results. Try mixing common ingredients in an unpredictable way.

In other words, don’t just focus on creating work that you’ve already seen before. Look outside of the field of photography and start having idea sex with other people to make exciting and new revolutionary idea babies.

Once you have the idea down, it becomes a simple exercise of problem solving.

For example:

Fire. Boring.
Soccer Ball. Boring.
Soccer Ball on Fire? Better
Soccer Ball on Fire with Professional Freestyle Footballer?
Now we’re getting somewhere!

Problem to solve:

What kind of soccer ball should I light on fire? What type of fuel do I use?

(In this case we used White Gas and Indoor Felt Soccer Balls)

Step 3: Construct Your Dream Team

Talent and Enthusiasm are the dream attributes to look out for in your team members.

Although it is obviously best to find an A-lister to participate in your projects, it is important to identify your Minimum Talent Threshold—otherwise known as “good enough”. Being too much of a perfectionist can result in Creation Paralysis, a situation where you can neither create or fail.

When you get stuck or tired, it is the enthusiasm of the individuals that surround you that will help you to complete your project.

Fans took turns to enthusiastically run after the ball over and over again for over two hours as we tweaked and refined the shot. (Photo Credit: Jon Williams/COOPH)




Step 4: Refuse Satisfaction

Satisfaction Breeds Comfort. Comfort kills creativity.

Being tenacious and constantly trying to refine your results, regardless of how good, is one of the keys to creating good work. The moment satisfaction creeps in, the urge to improve almost instantly evaporates.

Set the bar high, and never stop trying to push yourself to the next level.

Christian Kerschdorfer —Professional Freestyle Soccer Player with Ball on Fire
Christian Kerschdorfer —Professional Freestyle Soccer Player with Ball on Fire

This final image and the behind the scenes video up top were created in collaboration with COOPH, and shot using Broncolor’s new Siros L monolight and the Sony A7r II.

About the author: Benjamin Von Wong is a San Francisco based photographer currently focused on combining his epic style with environmental projects. If you have any ideas in mind, feel free to hit him up. This article was also published here.