A lot of photographers talk about adding emotion to a photograph. But what exactly does that mean and how can you do it? Basically it means evoking an emotional response in the viewer and there are many tried and true ways to do that. Here are some easy ways to do that though there are literally hundreds of other ways.
Colour – There are certain colours and combinations of colours that (in general) can be used to evoke emotions. Colours like red and black are aggressive colours for example, and stressing them in a photo can make the photo more confrontational (see the example below).
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/ffx-florbelasfotographix/2987495116Fire Burning Stare by FFX © florbela’s fotographix[/url] by =http://www.flickr.com/people/ffx-florbelasfotographixFFX © florbelas fotographix[/url], on Flickr
On the other hand, blue or green can be quite emotionally calming like in this serene coastal landscape.
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/dexxus/5601183065sweet escape[/url] by =http://www.flickr.com/people/dexxuspaul (dex)[/url], on Flickr
Subject Matter – Some subjects just inherently provoke an emotional response in people. Take for example, the spider below. We have been conditioned to fear spiders and so a spider acting in an aggressive fashion by attacking the camera will generate a strong sense of fear in many people. Simply choosing a subject matter that is perceived as aggressive can help add emotion to a photograph.
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/furryscalyman/1058568572The Business End[/url] by =http://www.flickr.com/people/furryscalymanFurryscaly[/url], on Flickr
Contrast – This one is related to colour, but using strong contrast in an image can help provoke strong emotion in the audience of the image. The viewer might have many different responses, but boredom is unlikely to be one of them. Strong contrast is an aggressive element in an image just as weak contrast can be used as a calming element.
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/invad3r/2442128433V[/url] by =http://www.flickr.com/people/invad3rErathic Eric[/url], on Flickr
Notice how the lack of contrast makes this image more calming:
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/pezz/3329540813045/365: Room 317 [#3][/url] by =http://www.flickr.com/people/pezzJosh Pesavento (broma)[/url], on Flickr
Expression – In much the same way that certain subject matter can evoke an emotional response due to its perceived aggression, so can various human or animal expressions. A dark scowl from a man can be menacing as can a roar from a tiger like the image below.
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/claudiogennari/3186012706Tiger attak…[/url] by =http://www.flickr.com/people/claudiogennariClaudio Gennari …"Cogli l’attimo ferma il tempo"[/url], on Flickr
Use of Shadow – The simple application of strong or harsh shadow across a face (human or animal) tends to lend a lot of emotion to an image and in many instances a lot of aggression. There can be a lot of overlap with this strategy and that of contrast.
=http://www.flickr.com/photos/crazysphinx/4033642237I’m Coming For You: Re-edit[/url] by =http://www.flickr.com/people/crazysphinxCrazySphinx[/url], on Flickr
As you can see from many of the examples above, there are often many different facets at work in creating emotive images. Strong colours, contrast, expression and shadow can all be combined quite effectively. Now this is only a very brief overview of a few ways that you can add emotion to your images, but it is by no means exhaustive. Go out and try others! What are some of the elements that you use to add emotion to a photograph?