Emotion in Photography: Does it Make a Difference?


With emotion in photography, you and the viewer connect, right? Does an image that connects with viewers mean they are remembered? Well, maybe.

emotion in a sunflower
Photo turned to Digital Art by Sheen Watkins

Emotion in photography is ever changing. Artistry and emotion start with the photographer's mindset. Impact is felt from the standpoints of the photographer and viewer. This is true from image capture, to traditional post processing and turning your images in to digital art.

One thing is for sure, images connecting with feelings are remembered much longer. Inc. ‘s interesting and good read article of Harvard Professor Says 95% of Purchasing Decisions Are Subconscious shares insights on emotion, branding and buying behaviours.

In photography, feeling for our subject, the moment doesn't start with the buyer or viewer. It starts with you. Then, your image that relates to a viewer taps into their emotion. A memory. A passion. A favourite location. A favourite subject.

emotion in photography soothing winter
Gentle, Soft Winter by Sheen Watkins

Emotion in Photography

Some of us started photography as a hobby, enjoying our subjects. Over time it evolved to a business. Now, our business supports customer's requests and buying patterns. We don't get the time we want with the subjects we prefer.

There's also the new and established enthusiasts, who shoot for the love of their subjects, the thrill of getting the shot. Over time, boredom, mediocrity, social media starts to creep in.

What motivates you to pick up your camera today? What motivates you to try a new post processing technique? Not for your family, not for your customers, but just for you?

Emotional Connection – It Starts with You

We've all said or heard, “If you shoot what you love, it'll show in our work.” That's so true. But, sometimes we need to explore how to gain or regain the love of our work.

What's Your Motivation:

What or who are you shooting for? Is your photography a way of connecting with others via social media? Or, is social media driving your photography behavior? When today's social pressures of likes, shares, follows determine how we feel about our photography, is that healthy?

Consider these two thoughts: 1) What would you photograph today if you did not consider influence or likes? 2) What subject would you go photograph even if it meant shooting in bad weather or tough conditions?

Shoot What You Love:

Photographing what you love shines through. Yes, from numerous images in the field to post processing, joy in your work shows. Think about how excited your are when you return from that shoot. You can hardly wait for the images to pop up on the screen. When they do, bringing them to life in post is not a job, its art. Your art!

What does the Sunflower See?
What is the Sunflower Looking at? by Sheen Watkins

Find Your Own Style & Perspective:

One of the hardest images to capture is that of iconic locations and scenes. So many photos span social media, travel magazines of almost the same shot. Yes, take the image. But how can you add your own spin?

Sunflowers in summer are a flower photographer's favorite. How is this image different or the same versus other sunflower images?

Chase the Moment not the Photograph:

Similar to photographing iconic locations, how do we convey emotion in the moment of the shoot. Some of the best planned photographs happen with the unexpected. For example, I wanted a snowy owl sitting in empty cherry trees. I was looking for the perfect pose, golden eyes staring at the camera.

What appeared in front of me told a different story. Instead, it was a snow storm with the owl braving the elements. She was in her element, unfazed by swirling snow. The image is to this day one of my favorites.

snowy in harsh conditions, emotion in photography
Braving the Elements by Sheen Watkins

Take a Break:

We all get tired. It's ok to put the gear away for a bit. For some it may be a couple of days, others a few weeks. Take advantage of the down time to reflect, regroup and move forward. You may come back ready to roll in the same direction, or you may shift your focus.

Revisit Your Favorite Shoots & Favorite Artists:

What do you do when you pull out your old high school books, photo albums? We laugh, we cry, we may even wonder “where did I lose sight of me?” The same applies to our work. Revisiting our favorite shoots, our beginnings shows us our progress and where we may have lost our way.

Our favorite artists evolved. They also faced the same challenges we do. Take a look at their early work and their work years later. Seeing the evolution in others shows validates our own need to change and evolve.

Stay True to You & Grow

Does emotion in photography make a difference? Sure it does! How you feel in the moment influences the outcome. Your passion, your energy behind the images is what makes them beautiful. Follow your love of subject, creativity and adventure in this craft. Try new shooting perspectives and post processing techniques.

Then, those viewers who share a love for your style, your subjects, connect and remember. Emotions trigger long memories and actions.

How will you regain your love of your work? Or, how will you re-energize your photography on your next shoot? Search for your favorite subjects in Light Stalking, you may find additional inspiration. Keep learning and growing!

About Author

Sheen Watkins is a conservationist, wildlife photographer, instructor, author and photography writer. You can follow her photography on Facebook, Instagram and her website.

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