Many people I’ve spoken to describe my images as emotional.
But what does it mean to create such images? Where does emotion come from?
Of course, with something so intangible as emotions, it is a very subjective matter. Different people get triggered by different things and not one picture will have the same effect on everyone.
I’ll try to explain some things I have figured out about creating emotional portraits.
People are attracted to other people on images and that’s no wonder: we like what we’re familiar with.
I’ve seen (and done so myself) pictures ruined because the choice of the model didn’t fit the theme. It is up to the photographer to determine what kind of model is best suited for a particular story.
The atmosphere needs to be relaxed in order for the models to let themselves go if you wish to achieve emotional photos. It is the photographer’s job to catch that fleeting ‘perfect’ moment, a mixture of fragility and strength. Talking, laughing, taking a break, having a muffin and easing into shooting are like a ritual of getting to know one another through the lens of a camera.
The theme can be very straightforward, but the images that make your eyes linger a bit longer are those with underlying stories that can’t be deciphered at the first glance. Sometimes there can be ”no theme” or, rather, the mood sets the theme of the photograph and no words are needed to explain it. Why are portraits (like the Afghan girl by Steve McCurry or Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange) some of the most famous photographs? The portraits don’t need ‘’explaining’’; we, as humans, connect immediately to other humans and can feel the emotions their faces convey without additional words. Understanding what you want to say, as well as how you want to say it, plays a meaningful role in creating engaging emotional images.
Learning about colour and developing an eye for it is extremely beneficial in photographic work. Starting from the clothes, the subject’s features and the setting, all the way to Photoshop, colours help set the mood. As someone who’s known for the colours she uses, Brooke Shaden‘s yellows and blues make her images look timeless, dark and evoke nostalgia.
This is the key element in photography and emotional portraits can be achieved in many lighting setups, from soft window light to striking studio flashes. Knowing your aim will help you choose the light best suited for your shoot.