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The Role of Emotion in Photography

The key point of this article is to define the role of emotion in photography and to focus in on key points that will help develop a unique style.


The tones and hues of a photograph convey the most emotion. While bright lights solicit sharp response, darker and more sombre tones such as brown and blues draw you in. This can be as easy as making all of your photographs of a single hue, such as the coolness of blue or the glowing heat from yellow/red.

Your photograph should comment on the colour that makes the moment unique – be it through contrasting, complimenting or simply ignoring composition – there has to be a purpose to your use of colour that adds to the story. Experiment with exposure to get the most colour from your subject.

Subject material

What does your subject say about the photograph? What is the purpose of the location you have chosen and what interaction is there between the subject and the surrounding environment? How is what you are photographing contributing to the story of the overall album? Highlight details for maximum immersion – and blur for distancing. Inciting an emotional impact on your audience is the key to great, memorable art. Make your audience question your image and reach their own answers.


Some photographers believe that the best time to take the snap is before and after the main course of action – this is when the scene is rife with emotion, however – there is also a niche for those wanting to capture the essence of the moment – decide for yourself what you’re looking for, make sure to set up autofocus and off you go!

Also, play around with exposure – it’s a bit old school and can definitely yield some great, fresh images for your portfolio.


When photographing, keep in mind your focus. This can be on landscape, portraits, urban, wedding photography etc. Choose what you want to work on and work on it, there is no way to beat old-fashioned hands-on experience.


A picture tells a thousand words – so make sure it does just that. Does your image incite curiosity? Is there something happening, something humans can attribute stories to? This is the main point of your photography as it is the message you deliver to your audience. Ask yourself the following questions; what is the global, national or local context to your image? This can have an important role in how it will be seen – and what angle you adopt. Make sure you are aware of the purpose of your image – this can benefit you by narrowing down publishing houses – and ensure your art has a voice.


First thing first – know your equipment inside out – and then go out of your way to find something new you didn’t already know about the equipment you already own. It’s a fun game to play to annoy yourself – and sometime it yields the most interesting results.

Here we come to the second point: experiment with new equipment. Borrow from friends or buy second hand. Research online and view peoples work using different equipment. Find something and use it in new ways.

If you follow the above tips – even just one – you will be on your way to conveying emotion in your photography, defining a more concrete style that you can apply in your photography. Make sure to question yourself and always have the camera ready for those elusive moments! Also, get a rain cover for your camera if you’re living in Ireland. If you have any tips to add or questions to ask, please feel free to reach out - We’re all standing on the Same Rock.

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