Thursday, October 31, 2013

Photographing Emotion

Pathway To The Soul - Tehachapi, California
Perhaps the most difficult and most powerful thing to capture in a photograph is emotion. Every scene has emotion, but conveying that through an image can be difficult.

When I talk about photographing emotion, what I'm actually referring to is the emotional response of the viewer to an image. It is not the emotion found at the scene or even my own emotions that are most important, but the viewer's emotions when looking at an image.
My Heart or My Grave? - Tehachapi, California
Like I said, every scene has emotion. The tricky part is conveying the emotion in such a way that the viewer sees it and responds to it in the way that you would want them to. You want to control the emotional response of the viewer. And different things cause the viewer to respond differently.

A high contrast scene and a low contrast scene will cause different emotional responses. An image with vibrant colors will cause a different emotional response than an image with muted colors. A black-and-white photograph and a color photograph will cause different emotional responses. A warm-toned image will cause a different emotional response than a cool-toned image. Same with the luminosity of a photograph.
Man At Shoshone Point - Grand Canyon, Arizona
Even the placement of objects within the frame will change the emotion of the image. A balanced image will feel different than an imbalanced image. One should consider negative vs positive space and how that relates to the subject. Focus should receive the same consideration.

Before opening the shutter, consider what emotions you want to convey through the image and consider all of the factors that determine how the viewer will respond. You should do your best to figure this out in your mind prior to capturing the photograph because it will effect how you capture it, both camera settings and composition.
Sisters - Surprise, Arizona
Photographs that have people in them are able to more easily convey emotion. This is because we can easily recognize the meaning of facial expressions and nonverbal communication. We can also empathize with the subject, and even imagine ourselves in their place. For this to be effective, one must capture the decisive moment.

Photographing emotion takes vision. It takes creativity. It takes forethought. And it takes practice. However, since there is emotion in every scene, it should be your goal to convey emotion with each and every photograph that you make.

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