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How to Evoke Emotion with Your Images

The West WeddingSome of us come to photography because we want to learn how to take better pictures of our children. Some of us come to photography because we want to take better pictures for our business or blog. Many of us come to photography because we love art. For you artists, emotion is an integral part of your photography.

You don’t have to wait until you’re a big time rock star photographer to evoke emotion with your images. Evoking emotion simply means that your photos say something. They may speak about something funny, moving, sad, or thoughtful. They might capture a mood, or put your viewer in a state of contemplation. Photos that evoke emotion simply portray a feeling. So how do you create that in your photos?

Think about the feeling you want to convey

Raising Strong Woman

This mother feels it is very important that she raise her daughter to be independent and strong. By showing them walking hand in hand standing strong and tall, you get a sense of strength and independence.

A large part of the business of photography is photographing families, and often times multiple generations. That is a perfect opportunity to play with evoking emotion. You can all do the standard sitting in the studio or standing on the beach but what if you take a few frames where you’re actually shooting with a bigger purpose? Think about framing a shot to convey a sense of strength in the women of the family. How can you show that these women are loving and encouraging toward one another? Body language, clothing, or even the setting can help you convey that message.

Think about a mother and her small child. She loves her baby with all of her heart. How can you show that emotion? I often envision a woman in a flowy dress that cascades behind her. She’s holding her young daughter’s hand and leading her into the future. Can you imagine that? Just my description evokes emotion so just imagine what the photo will do.

Consider your own feelings

Teen in thought

This young teen is coming into herself as a woman and dealing with the changes in her life. Her gaze shows that she is deep in thought.

Maybe you just want to express yourself for you. I find photography to be a great release. I love to express my emotions through self portraits. Evoking emotions based on your own personal experiences is a fantastic way to really learn this process. I recently decided to photograph myself without makeup, in the process of grooming. I did this because it speaks to those who struggle with imperfection. I often seem very put together, but I am just like every other woman. I took this sense of emotion and turned it into a photograph. You can do the same.

Bare Monica

Think about an issue that you are dealing with. It may be a sickness, or death in the family, a social issue, or even just joy in your life. How can you translate that into a photo project for yourself? You can also use your clients’ emotions to photograph them. Imagine that you’ve talked to your client and she has expressed that she’s having a very difficult time dealing with a family issue. You can help her express herself by photographing her in a way that she will be able to relate.

Photograph landscapes, street settings, and inanimate objects

Old San Juan Couple

Street photography is a great way to capture emotion. You can make your photos tell whatever story you wish. This couple sitting alone in an alley in Old San Juan can mean anything you wish.

You can evoke emotion through landscapes and objects around you. I started my photography career photographing the harbors, snow, and mountains of Alaska. You can evoke emotion in these types of settings by adjusting the times of day you shoot or even the conditions your shooting in. Fog is a lovely natural occurrence that creates instant mood. If your forecast is calling for fog then make sure you have your camera ready to head outside and grab some of that deliciousness.

If you’re feeling particularly down and gloomy, then wait for that rainy day. Get outside with the raindrops and photograph something. Don’t feel like venturing outside in the weather? No problem. Use your wet window to create a bit of a screen to shoot through. Make it original so that your rainy window shot is different than the rest. Do you have a book, an heirloom, or a favorite object that means something to you? That’s a great way to add uniqueness to your emotional rainy photo. The idea is to use anything to create the feeling you want to portray.

The Falls -01

Street photography is wonderful when it comes to evoking emotion. You get to have people in their natural settings doing things that they naturally do. Your job is to frame your photos to convey the feeling you want to achieve. Are you longing for a loved one? Look for a couple that looks so in love and photograph them walking down the sidewalk. Use what you see around you to create the feeling you want to convey in your photographs.

Evoking emotion is subjective to the photographer and the viewer. Your audience might not see what you intend but they will most likely see something. Many times we fall in love with a piece of art or a photograph and have no idea why. This is evoking emotion. This is your goal. Have fun with it and practice, practice, practice.

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Monica Day
Monica Day

is a portrait photographer in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She specializes in photographing women and children. Monica aims to help each of her clients feel strong and confident. She also teaches and mentors other photographers. She is the author of The Most Fabulous Boudoir Marathon Guide. You can find Monica on her YouTube page where she provides tutorials and talks about lifestyle. Be sure to check out more of Monica’s work at her website and Instagram.

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