woman open arms while closed eyes smiling photo
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

One of the skills that is important in photography, at least if you want to be good in photography, is to convey emotions or feelings in your photos.

Have you ever gone to an art exhibit, or a photo exhibit and while looking at the image, you get that feeling of joy, or sad, or even depressed? That is the skill of the artist. Conveying feelings in a photo involves learning how you are feeling first, and then conveying that in your photos.

1- Find out what your mood is first

The emotional state of the photographer – that’s you! – has the largest impact on the emotional quality of your photos.

So whenever you head out with your camera, before you take a single shot, or even look for a shot, ask yourself: How am I feeling today? Then let that emotion guide your shooting, and channel it into your photos.

person standing near lake
Photo by Lukas Rychvalsky on Pexels.com

When you look at the scene around you, think: “it is difficult to create happy photos, when I don’t feel happy”. As you look at your photos over the years, a lot of times you can look at the photos you took, and realize that the reason they look that way was because you felt happy, or sad, or depressed, or energetic, or whatever. Your photography will often resemble the mood you are in.

Sometimes, your emotional state might simply be “bored” or “bleh.” That’s okay; it happens to the best of us. When I look back through my travel photos, I’ll notice a dip in quality, and it often corresponds to my feelings at the time. On days like these, you might consider leaving your camera behind, watching a movie, or doing something creative that doesn’t pressure you to take powerful, emotional shots.

And don’t worry. Your boredom will pass, and pretty soon you’ll feel excited about photography again!

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2- Simplify your photo:

If you’re looking to create emotional photography, consider simplifying the shot. Exclude elements from your frame. Choose a perspective that highlights a single area of interest, not the entire scene.

green wooden window on white concrete wall
Photo by Jeffrey Czum on Pexels.com

When simplifying your photo, maybe use your telephoto or zoom lens so that you can just highlight the subject without having distracting elements around them. This is a good time for “negative spacing” type photos (see: https://123photogo.com/2021/11/01/understanding-negative-space/ ).

3- Focus on faces:

The faces are the main thing that shows feelings. They can show happy, sad, mad, content, anger, etc. And the eyes are the window to the soul. When taking photos of faces, try to see what the emotion is of the person, and reflect it in the photo.

collage photo of woman
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

A word of caution, however: Do not rush up with your lens, thrust it into a person’s field of view, and snap a shot, especially if they’re feeling emotional. Instead, be respectful. Whenever possible, ask permission, especially if you don’t know the person. (I often just raise my eyebrows while pointing at my camera, and it works great.)

4- Return to the same place repeatedly:

See how much each scene reflects a different feeling.

If you’re shooting a subject that you can return to, then do it. The street or beach or room or person will have a different feel on different days, especially if you’re photographing outdoors and the weather changes often.

Make sure you return to a location with an open mind. Don’t expect certain feelings, or you might be disappointed. Instead, clarify your emotions, then pretend you’re seeing the scene for the first time.

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Take your time as you take photos, and either try to create a photo that reflects how you feel, or if taking a portrait, reflect how they feel, by taking the time and find out the feelings of you or them.

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