4 Steps for Capturing Real, Emotional Pictures

I think after a while people start to get sick of the typical “stand-and-smile-and-look-at-the-camera” pictures. The person with the camera gets tired of taking them, and the people being photographed are tired of saying, “cheese!” So how do you get better images that tell a story and show emotion?

Photograph Natural Behavior

Instead of letting your subjects know that you’re photographing them, why not just start snapping pictures of them doing whatever it is they’re doing. They’re not bothered by stopping to smile, and you get to photograph them being themselves. Look for the details. If your child is playing in the sandbox outside, don’t just get an overview shot of the whole scene. Get pictures of her sandy toes, the toy in her hand, and other details that make up the rest of the story.

I absolutely love this shot of my father-in-law. He was roping calves for branding, and I simply waited for the right moment when he was swinging his rope to snap the picture. Although the photo doesn’t tell the whole story, you know that there IS a story behind it. It’s such a wonderful portrait and I cherish it dearly!


Get Down to Their Level

Oftentimes, the best images of people are when the camera is about eye level. There are obvious exceptions to this rule, but especially when photographing children, it’s best to get down to their level. It makes it fun to see life from their vantage point, like this shot of my niece opening a box of new shoes.


Find a Different Angle

Get in close. Using a wide angle lens and getting close to the action draws viewers into the image.


Shoot from the side. Profile shots (profile = side of face) are way cool. And unique. Don’t think you always have to be in front of the subject.


Frame your shot. Put something between you and the subject to add dimension and draw the viewer’s eye to the subject.


Look down. What is usually referred to as “bird’s eye view” can give an interesting spin to your image.


Give an Action

If you flat out tell someone to laugh, what happens? They stand there and look at you. So how do you get pictures of people genuinely laughing? You can always tell a joke and be ready for their reaction, but my jokes aren’t very funny so this doesn’t usually work for me. Instead, I tell the person (or group) to show me their most obnoxious laugh. Sometimes this alone gets them laughing. Sometimes they need persuading, and I have to show them what I mean and make an obnoxious laugh myself. But always, after a few seconds of goofy, fake laughing, the real laughter kicks in and I snap away!


Another action to get laughter is to tell people to dance. It usually helps to have some music on, and I usually like to dance with them. If people see me acting like a fool, they’re more likely to do it to. Before this image was shot, I took a few snapshots of silly poses and dancing until she simply started laughing. I love this photo of her!


Try implementing one (or more!) of these techniques the next time you pull out your camera!

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