Emotional Imagery

One of the most important elements in a good photograph is capturing emotion with the camera. A good landscape image should evoke some emotional response from the viewer. The response might be as simple as awe, or as complex, as love, but if an image does not evoke a response then it’s no more than a snapshot. An image that is perfect in every technical aspect, but doesn’t elicit an emotional response from the viewer, is documentation not art. 

My July 2019 trip to Iceland brought a number of challenges to creating images that evoked emotion from the viewer. As for many photographers that are traveling time is of the essence. Capturing that perfect image while on a location for a short time can be very difficult. I often find that spending a longer time in one location will yield better images than many photographs from a myriad of locations. I prefer to go for quality over quantity. One good image is worth far more than 10 mediocre shots. Spending more time in location allows the photographer time to form an emotional bond with the scene around him/her. Weather is usually a major variable, particularly in volatile areas like Iceland, or the Canadian Rockies, for example. Photographing a beautiful sunset/sunrise in a spectacular location will easily yield a shot that will awaken an emotion in the viewer, but a rainy day shot will be much more difficult to pull off successfully. 

One approach to photographing in a new location is to spend a bit of time exploring, finding locations to shoot from, that appeal to you personally, will improve the odds of successfully reaching the viewer on an emotional level. Timing your shots for that highly desirable low angle light also increases the likelihood of imparting some emotion into the photograph. The direction you shoot can alter the mood significantly. A backlit shot can raise the level of drama in the scene considerably for example. Composing the image in a manner that makes you feel some emotion, even if it’s just pain in your knees :-) , ups the odds of succeeding with a final image. Colour is another way of arousing emotions from the viewer. Warm colours will evoke emotions like love, and joy, while cold colours will darken the mood, eliciting a chilly reception. 

Carefully considering the response desired from the viewer, before taking the shot, is the starting point for a successful day in the field. The variables are endless, and the approaches many, but even simply thinking about what you the photographer wants to say can dramatically improve the likelihood of an emotionally charged image. Have fun, keep a positive outlook, and shoot with purpose.