Photography, Storytelling, and Sharing Content with Von Wong

Does it make them look cool?
Does it make them feel aroused? (think emotional here)
Does it make them learn something?

These are the three questions to consider when figuring out what content to share and whether something is likely to pick up and go viral on the web. These are the three questions Benjamin Von Wong asks himself when considering how to approach his photographic storytelling. He shared this, and more at his engaging talk on UCSC campus this April (2017).

Von Wong = Extreme Adventures & Storytelling meets Photography

Von Wong is an extremely skilled adventure photographer. When I say adventure- I don’t mean your typical “climb a mountain” photos. He gets into spaces that most photographers wouldn’t go and shoots under epic conditions.

His most extreme locations to shoot have included the rooftop edge of a 44 story building, in the middle of a wild tornado storm, and under the water where the model was actually tied down to the set. !! Those are all equally such wild and dangerous locations, as an author, I honestly didn’t know how to order them in the sentence that saves the best for last.

In a world of CG and growing computer image editing software, it’s incredible to see images shot in such extreme conditions. Something at about the thrill of the image capturing process is absolutely striking.

Not to mention, one of his personal missions is working toward being paid to make the world a better place. That’s a mission most of us can stand behind. It was incredible to hear his personal transformation from engineer to someone who wanted a camera to take pictures of the stars, to the epic photography work he does now.

Back to the talk.

Insights about Creating and Spreading Content

During the talk he touched on a number of thoughts on how to create and share content that gets traction. I’m a list person so I’ll lay out some of the key takeaways below.

1 ) Be strategic about creating video. Video for a captive audience vs online audience is different. For social platforms, it’s advantageous to have words in the video because most videos automatically play silently so text can help draw a person in.

When creating a video, why not create the whole thing so you can break up the first portion and make it a 20 to 30 second complete segment. This notion reminded me of takeaways from a trip to AJ+ last fall. That company is the best at Facebook optimized video and makes sure that about 2 or 5 seconds in, the most compelling content is on the screen.

2) Intrigue, Fact, Real life comment/content, CTA. <- This is a template one could use to create a story with good flow. Check out the Mermaids Hate Plastic set video for an example.

VonWong touches on point #3: Engaging an audience is comparable to dating.

3) Engaging an audience is comparable to dating: Create intrigue, be interesting, and if there is a feeling of magic there, the relationship will move forward. Keep it going steady and strong, give to the relationship and include surprises every now and then to keep things interesting!

4) A combo of two different ideas can be interesting and can help make a good headline, pitch, idea, or something new. Ex: Mermaids + Ten Thousand Plastic Bottles. Pretty wild. Right?

5) People enjoy sharing things that fall under any of the three questions:

Does it make them look cool?
Does it make them feel aroused? (think emotional)
Does it make them learn something?

A note on the second question: good, surprised, disgust, wow, excited, sexy, fun, awesome… would all be good. Sad, pitiful, etc. should be avoided.

6) Headlines, headlines, headlines. A good headline can make all the difference. Of course, you need to make sure the content lives up to the headline, or else people are going to realize the disconnect and will leave.

The inspirational process

Von Wong’s talk left me feeling re-inspired. I asked him where he gets inspiration when he runs into a wall or if he ever does get stuck(he seems to consistently be on the go!)

He says he talks to people and that’s how he gets inspiration. He also says he’ll ask clients or people he’s interested in working with what problem they are trying to solve. Then he’ll break any complicated issue down to pieces that he can work with and begins from there. Sometimes he’ll let a project idea sit for a while, marinate, to give it some time.

Don’t wait around for the heavens to open up for you! Just. Get. Started.

These are all ideas that aren’t new or rocket science. If you’ve read “The Power of Habit” you’ll know that having good routine and spending the time on having a good routine and mastering a skill will help you get where you need to go.

Von Wong has this down and has put in the time, practice, and enthusiasm to move forward in photography in new and exciting ways. From seeing that hard work and success I am inspired. I know many others will be inspired, have been inspired, and will continue to be inspired by the incredible visuals and stories he tells.

Check out his instagram and webpage if you haven’t already, and brace yourself to be inspired, and want to help change the world.

Cheers peeps! [VonWong on the left and the article author, Ileana on the right.]