Wednesday, April 03, 2013

5 tips for capturing emotion in your photographs

In my opinion the most important element to be captured in a photograph is emotion.  If a picture conveys emotion - whether it's happiness, beauty, sorrow, disgust - it is successful.  Capturing feeling and in turn allowing a viewer to have their own reaction and hopefully the one that I intended also happens to be one of the most difficult aspects of photography for me.  This is one of those times that I'm even more grateful for digital photography because you can edit out whatever photos don't work for what you're trying to say.  I don't always achieve it but my main goal is always for people to connect with an image and over the years I keep these ideas and tips in mind when I'm shooting and here are some images from my archives.

1.  Get a handle on your own mood  

Whatever you're personally feeling at the time that you shoot a photo will come across when you hit that shutter.  If that's what you're going for then it's great.  But sometimes you want to show happiness and you're in a bad mood.  If you're able to, remove yourself from the situation and come back to it when you're ready.  Having a neutral outlook will make you a better storyteller.

2.  Think about what you're trying to convey by giving yourself time

You might not always have time to think about the images that you want to capture.  When I'm out on the street and things are happening quickly I'm too busy looking for images to really think about what they will mean - with street photography the emotion coming through usually happens later.  I personally know what I feel when I see and capture a moment but I'm not always aware right before it's about to happen.  This isn't true for all photography so sit back, put your camera down for a moment and think about what it is you want to say.  Giving yourself a bit of distance between the moment and your end goal will give you clarity and make you feel ready to jump in.

3.  Take the words "pretty" and "ugly" out of your vocabulary

Don't think about an image as falling into either of these categories.  It's obvious that you can't please every one with each of your photographs and why would you want to?  Who doesn't love pretty pictures?  I certainly do.  When something is unattractive or uncomfortable it's not as desirable but I'm personally intrigued by that.  Think about the feeling that you want to convey and not whether the potential image will fit into the viewer's personal aesthetic because a photo that evokes emotion will appeal to a very wide audience regardless of the subject matter. 

4.  Zoom in, zoom out

Zooming in and setting your focus on a subject transports your viewer to the moment you were in when you shot the picture.  While so many images work well with a wide angle, zooming in captures mood and emotion in a much more personal way.   Conversely, there are times when the best way to capture a feeling is to set your angle as wide as possible and capturing the entire scene to set the mood.  What does this mean?  I can never decide so if I can, I try various angles and focal lengths and see which one I like best and is the most evocative later.  Thank goodness for digital (although to be honest I did this when I shot film too)!

5.  Study photos that move you

Turn to your favorite photo books, blogs, and websites and study the works that move you.  Learn from other photographers and artists and open your mind enough to allow others to influence you and help you shape your own vision.  I talked about influence here and shared some quotes and images by some of my favorite photographers on yesterday's post.

Do you have any tips?  Please share them in the comments!

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