How to Capture Emotion When Photographing People

How to Capture Emotion When Photographing People

There are moments in your life as an artist when all of a sudden a light turns on in your mind and heart and you find yourself getting hit hard by this thing called inspiration. And I’m not talking about the “Oh, grab me my paintbrush or guitar or camera – I have an idea.” kind of inspiration but instead, I’m referring to the “Oh, this actually changes how I make art from now on.” kind of inspiration.

For me, one of these powerful moments happened during my own engagement session. I was a budding photographer at the time and it was of the utmost importance that I booked the best of the best – aka Luke Liable. While Luke was busy snapping photos of Joey (my now-husband) and I wrapped up in each other, I felt it. I felt that special kind of inspiration. 

As I looked into Joey’s eyes, I remember thinking “Wow, I haven’t seen him.” Which sounds silly because I saw him almost daily but in the busy rush of life and wedding planning, I hadn’t stopped to take the time to truly “see” him. I hadn’t stopped to enjoy the utter rush of excitement that I was marrying the man of my dreams (I know, ew, how sappy). I forgot about the camera and the photographer and even the beautiful sunset behind us. All I saw was him. All I felt was love. And it is evident in our photos. 

And from that moment on, I swore I would never just be a “photographer”. Because as stunning as our photos were, what mattered more was the experience and that’s exactly what I feel every time I walk by our big canvas print from our engagement session – I feel the moment.

So when people ask me “How do you capture emotion when photographing?” I tell them this story. Because meaningful emotion isn’t found in how well you know your camera or know Lightroom (although those tools are clearly helpful). It is much more easily found in the comfort of a genuine and meaningful experience.

And then I give them the following tips:

1. Give Direction

The worst experience I’ve ever had in front of a camera was when someone told me to “act natural”. I smiled and nodded but internally I was screaming “Thanks for the advice but that doesn’t help me know what the heck to do with my awkward hands.” 

I think one of the first mistakes people make when they want to capture emotion is they throw out the concept of posing in fear it will feel too rigid. But I’ve found quite the opposite to be true.

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