I want to teach you the simplest trick I know to make people ooh-and-ahh over your photographs. Want to know what it is?

I go after the perfect photograph like a hunter going after a trophy to mount on a wall. If you ever go with me while I’m photographing, you will hear me shout, YES! and fist-pump like Tiger Woods when I find something beautiful that’s been waiting for me to capture it. Following my little happy dance, I say, “This is going to look great hanging on my wall!”

So here’s my trick: Find your favorite image and enlarge it to at least 24″x30″! Then frame it and hang it on a prominent wall and just wait for the oooos-and-ahhhs. 

The WOW! Factor

I learned the WOW! factor when I had a full-time portrait studio and created my first Hufnagel. A Hufnagel is a funny word that means you display the same image but in various sizes.

For example, when you walked into my customer lounge at my studio, a Hufnagel filled an entire wall with the same image that started off as an 11″x14″, then 16″x20″, then 20″x24″ and all the way up to 4 feet by 6 feet. In fact, this was one of my sales lines: How big of a WOW! do you want? The bigger the image, the bigger the WOW! 

Let’s try it: Do you prefer this thumbnail?

Kilauea Lighthouse

Or this?

Kilauea Lighthouse

Kilauea Lighthouse, Kauai

How many times do you click on a small image on the computer screen to enlarge it? See what I mean? Size does matter.

When you walk into our house, you see the Lighthouse image hanging in a 24″x30″ frame on a wall above the chair. This image receives frequent oohs-and-ahhs.

Lighthouse on living room wall

Lighthouse on living room wall


Let’s try it again: Thumbnail or Full Size? Which creates more WOW!?

The Napali Coast

The Napali Coast

The Napali Coast

The Napali Coast

How To Create A Large Wall Image

The best images start before you leave the house as your prepare yourself – and your camera – to capture a large wall image. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Know your camera – read that little book that comes with it about how to choose various settings or jump on www.youtube.com and look for a tutorial about your camera. That little bit of research is critical.
  • Set your camera to take as large of file as possible – if your camera lets you change the file settings, set it to take as large of an image file as possible. No matter what you do, you can not create a 24″x30″ out of a 85KB file. It needs to at least be 3MB.
  • Scout the location in advance if you can and ask yourself these questions:
    • What time of day is best for the golden hour (one hour after sunrise or one hour before sunset)?
    • What season of the year?
    • What’s the best location for me to set up?
    • Have other photographers captured this image and how did they answer my first 3 questions?

I read travel guides before I go any place to find images I want to capture. I don’t think that’s copycatting at all because of this extremely simple rule about nature photography: the light and the season always changes. I often like another photographer’s composition and will try to discover where they were standing. However, I know because of Mother Nature, I’m going to have a much different light so will have an entirely different image. For example, I wanted to photograph Ke’e Beach so I looked online and found several photographers had a sloped rock shelf in their image so I jumped on Google Earth and found that rock outcropping. Once I arrived at the beach, I had to walk several hundred yards past dozens of other people with cameras to find it. Here is where everyone else was standing to take the photo, not even close to the rock outcropping:

Other photographers on Ke'e Beach

Other photographers on Ke’e Beach


The first four evenings I tried it, the clouds socked in the Napali coast which I wanted in the back ground. Finally, I captured this image:

Ke'e Beach Sunset

Ke’e Beach Sunset

The Key to Taking Capturing Great Sunrise or Sunset Images

How many times have you seen a sunset and wished you could take a photo that captured it’s brilliance? But either you didn’t have your camera with you, or if you did, you just can’t capture the image on the screen like it looks in your eye? Here’s a simple trick to help you that costs as little as $20.00 –use a tripod even for your smartphone!

Many of us see great sunsets or sunrises and grab our cameras or smartphones, then get blurry images that don’t capture what we saw. The reason for that is your camera – even on your smart phone – is like your eye. The lower the light, the bigger the opening needed to let light in. In your eye, it’s your pupil. On a camera, it’s called an aperture. The other way a camera controls light coming is in called a shutter – think of it like your eyelid blinking. To capture the lowlight of a sunset or sunrise, the camera opens the aperture as far as it can and slows the shutter down as much as possible. Anything below 1/6oth of a second shutter speed will be blurred because you cannot hold the camera still enough; that’s why you have to have a tripod. The shutter speed for the Ke’e image was 1/60th of a second and I set my aperture at 22. The higher the aperture number, the more that is in focus.

If you can’t manually set your camera settings, most cameras have a low-light or nighttime auto setting you can select. It automatically slows the shutter speed and adjusts the aperture to that setting. However, it still wants you to mount it on a tripod because it’s going to slow your shutter speed down too much for you hold it in your hand.

To make sure I don’t touch my camera when I’m photographing in lowlight, I either use a cable trigger or, if it’s my smartphone, I set the 10 second timer so it triggers without me touching it.


Enlarging Your Photographs

There are a several options available through Snapfish, Flickr, and others that create up to 20″x30″ prints on archival paper. Office Max will do posters up to 40″x60″, but they are not on archival paper. Why is that important? Archival paper won’t fade. Also, posters aren’t “mounted.” By that, it means they are not mounted to foamcore or another rigid substrate that will help keep the print solid and flat when you frame it. Ordering a large print that is mounted on something flat is critical.

I use a lab for professional photographers so I can get much larger prints and all the paper is archival. If you have an image you’ve captured you want enlarged, mounted, and framed, I can help with that. Email me at: rick.mcnary@gmail.com for further help.

I enjoy helping others capture great images. If there is anything I can do, please feel free to contact me.

There are images of beauty that are waiting on you to take notice and capture them in all their brilliance. Your friends, and even strangers, are waiting on you to share them so we, too, can be smitten by the grandeur of this world in which we live.


If you would like these writings delivered to your inbox, sign up here. I promise not to spam you or give/sell your info to anyone.

Follow along on Twitter and/or on my authors’ page on  Facebook.