How to Add Emotion to Photographs

The thing that separates a snapshot from an artistic photograph is the images ability to generate an emotional response in the viewers. To convey feeling a photographer must go beyond the basic laws of composition and develop something more free flowing and emotive. There are several ways a photographer can alter their photography style to capture a greater level of emotion.

Take shots candidly

Sure, posed shots get a good look at everyone’s face, and give you something nice to share with relatives, but they don’t really tell a story. Candid shots capture a unique moment. The emotion of that moment is typically visible in the faces, and eyes of those involved. The easiest way to bring emotion into a picture is through the facial expressions of others.


Often, what goes wrong in photographs is that the emotion is overcome by the motion in the image. For example, the excitement of a football game can often be lost in photographs in the movement of the team and the activity of the crowd. Isolate a single face, or a small group of faces in the crowd and allow the rest of the scene to be slightly out of focus.

Visualize and wait

Photographers often shoot in rapid shot mode believing it will increase their chances of taking a shot that is worth printing. There is no skill or artistic design in photos taken using this rapid fire method. When trying to convey emotion in a photograph, look at the scene and visualize exactly the emotion you want to capture, and what that emotion would look like in the given setting. Then frame the shot and wait for the moment when the exact shot you want is in the frame and click. You may only get one chance at catching a tear on someone’s cheek, or a sparkling grin that reaches their eyes. When photographing nature, those emotive moments are even harder to capture. So make sure you get exactly the shot you envisioned.

Smile to Universe by Harry Sulistio

Be aware of your own emotion

Unfortunately, some days are not good. That does not mean that you cannot capture amazing and emotional images those days, but it is important that you acknowledge your mood and stay aware of how it is effecting the images you capture. It is harder to recognize excitement and glee in someone else when you are feeling dour and down. Try to approach the image you are capturing analytically when this happens, so that your mood does not transfer into the image.

Break the rules

The rules of composition, including the law of thirds and others, sometimes cannot capture emotive moments well. If you need to break the rules to get the shot you want most, do it! Emotive images have to have a certain level of spontaneity in them, so let go of the lines of the composition, risk cutting off the top of someone’s head or setting at a slight angle, and focus more on the tone of the picture.

Edit with care

Often editing can be used to heighten the final feeling of a composition. Adjust the color of the picture to include a cooler or warmer overall tone, crop the image, and make other alterations that enhance the emotion of the shot and help the reader find that focus.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Wordpress SEO Plugin by SEOPressor