Tips to Capturing True Emotion in Photos
Photography is an art. Just like any other work of art, a great photograph causes others to feel emotion, perhaps even to feel something they’ve never quite felt. Emotion is one of those things that link us all together as people. We’ve all felt joy, sorrow or anger, and when we see that feeling reflected by art, we can empathize with the subject and understand something in the picture that goes beyond the simple images shown.
Emotion is what separates a mere photograph from true art. A picture of an old but well-kept house may be beautiful, but adding occupants — children playing in the front yard, a smiling newly-married couple looking into each others eyes on the porch, a weary man in a rumpled suit sitting despondently on the steps — and suddenly it’s a whole new image. It tells a story, giving truth to the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words.
Great photographers don’t find images like this by accident. They know how to find a moment or be ready for one. While each has their own way of doing it, here are some tips that may help you capture true emotion in your own photographs.
No More Cheese
One of the best, and most powerful, aspects of emotion is spontaneity. True emotion just happens. It can’t be coached or planned, if it’s real. Unfortunately, being in front of a camera often stifles the ability to just act naturally. While the pictures taken when everyone says “cheese!” can make good pictures and better memories, any emotion is manufactured and it can show. Capturing emotion is easier when the subject is caught unaware, or after they’ve forgotten the presence of the camera. When a person is being herself, you can catch the truest expression of what makes them unique.
Always Be Ready
Some of the best shots are completely unplanned. It’s pretty difficult to predict when a child will do something impressive, or a pet will do something silly, but even if you do capture that moment, sometimes, the best shots are right before or right after the “main event”. The moment, in those cases, is not when the action is occurring, but when it’s all over and the subject is relaxed, and being himself.
Any Moment Can Be A Moment
This goes hand in hand with always being ready. Let’s say you are running a photo session. There’s usually a set time for taking pictures, where the subjects pose and smile and you basically take the pictures they’d like to have to remember a certain occasion. But the people involved aren’t always posed and ready, and those are your real opportunities. As good as planned pictures might be, only a natural pose, caught when someone is acting naturally, can truly convey emotion.
Don’t Settle for Just One Shot
It’s difficult for a subject to forget the camera is there, if they know you’re taking pictures. Take pictures anyway. You never know when you’ll catch that perfect picture. This goes double for when you take pictures of someone you don’t really know that well. Out of a dozen seemingly random pictures, you may well find the one that looks great. As a photographer, even a casual one, your job is to find the beauty in your subject. Not even the best professional can do that in one perfect shot.
Know (Or Get To Know) Your Subject
Taking pictures of friends and family has its benefits. When you know your subject, you know what you love most about them, or what quality you want to capture. You might even know just how to elicit the perfect response — a “planned” unplanned shot.
Pictures of relative strangers may require some initial conversation, or even an interview. After all, you can’t really know someone if you never talk to them. Don’t be afraid to ask people about the things they love, the subjects that interest them, what they enjoy most about the people in their lives. You may well get the perfect shot during the questioning! And, if you don’t, you’ll definitely know what to look for to get the work of art you’re striving to create.
The Eyes Have It
This probably goes without saying, but it’s important enough to say it anyway — the face should be the focus of most of your photographs, if you want to convey true emotion. Every so often, you’ll find exceptions, such as a team of football players slumped in defeat, or someone engaged in a spontaneous jump or dance of joy, arms raised high, but for the most part, the best pictures have the face of the subject front and center.
There is no better display of emotion than the face, because that is the most visible means of expression. When the focus is on the face, always try to capture the eyes, as well. This works even when taking pictures of pets, with the soft gaze of a dog or the aloof or intent stare of a cat. Intensity of emotion is often best expressed through the eyes, even when there is little expression on the face. A glance to the side or a picture of someone caught mid eye roll can speak volumes.
About the Author:
Laura O’Donnell writes smart content on behalf of Nixplay, a provider of wireless digital picture frames. As an avid writer and learner, she loves to use her skills for engaging others in important topics in creative and effective ways. When she is not working, she loves meeting new people, traveling, and bringing her Pinterest dreams to life. Find her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/laurajodonnell