Adding Emotion to Photos

Love. Hate. Excitement. Sadness. Curiosity. Fear. The list goes on. The beauty of photography is the ability to capture these emotions and keep them to remind us of our experiences. Spectacular images and timeless memories have resulted from simple snapshots, a keen eye and remembering a few simple tips.

General Tips

1. Be aware of your own temperament while shooting. With so much emphasis on your subject and the emotion you want to convey in your shot, it can be easy to forget that your own mood effects your work. As with anything, when you aren’t “feeling” (for lack of a better term!) like yourself, are distracted or otherwise not as focused, it will show in  your work. While this doesn’t mean you should get rid of all you shoot on an “off” day, just be aware that you may not capture all of the emotion you were hoping for during that particular shoot. Don’t despair! Keep shooting and take advantage of the time when you’re on your game!

2. Choose broad or focused emotion. Is the emotion you want to capture evoked from the photograph or do you want to convey emotion through the facial expression of your subject? Trying to capture specific emotions through a large group shot won’t work as well as choosing a few key faces to focus on.

3. Relax and take a break. Seriously. If you can, take a break from shooting just to look and listen to what is around you. Take in the sights, watch the peoples faces, listen to their laughter or comments. Rather than feeling pressured to find the “perfect shot”, you will be relaxed and better able to realise the true emotions and feel of the situation. This will ultimately give you direction and, in fact, help you capture the emotion you’re looking for when you resume.

4. Get Permission. Whether its family, friends or strangers. Always get the subject’s permission to photograph  them (especially their faces) and share your shots with them whenever possible.

Portrait Photography

1. Know your subject. Before a shoot, it’s best if you can have contact (perhaps multiple times either by telephone or in person) to get to know your client, what they’re looking for from the shoot and a bit about how they work. It’ll make the shoot more smoothly when you have a sense of familiarity and focus.

2. Remember the “Warm up.” With photo shoot time constraints and the want to catch as many good shots as possible, it may be tempting to shoot and keep the majority pictures. Remember the beginning of any photo shoot is a time for you to get comfortable with your subject and for them to get comfortable with the camera. Don’t be afraid to get rid of the first shots.

3. In Between Shots. Remember the most natural interactions will happen between people when they think you’re not looking! Try to remain ready to snap at any moment.

4. Your Mood Matters. Allowing your client to feel relaxed, and therefore open to showing their emotions, is largely down to the environment you create.  Remember to be friendly, personable and understanding. Use your sense of intuition to realise what is or isn’t working and go from there. This also ties into your preparedness by knowing your clients preferences and having an idea of a relevant location, poses and props you’d like to use as well as which camera, lenses and other accessories will work best. When you feel prepared and relaxed, so will your client.


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