3 tips for capturing real emotion

Joyous laughter.
gummy grins.
Capturing real emotion.

As a photographer, I do believe that when photographing someone, yes the formal “look at me and smile” poses have their merit, but for me, the bread and butter of my job is capturing an image that says so much more visually. Emotion, pure and simple, no matter if its happy or sad or intense, that is how I a story is told with one single image.

I wanted to share some tricks of the trade to capture *that* moment, no matter the situation. These are great for those budding professionals or for the hobbyist photographer who photographs their friends and family.

1 – Form a connection with your subject.

Converse. Engage in a true conversation and get to learn your subject. For example, when photographing a couple, ask them what they love to do most when they are together or their favorite quality about their significant other. That not only encourages compliments, but they tend to draw a genuine smile or adoring look.

With kids, I can rely on telling an incredibly corny joke or talking about boogers and I am guaranteed get a laugh. Sometimes I play the high five game or make crazy animal noises. Truly understanding the personality of your subject can figuratively move mountains for a successful session. Also, don’t worry about looking silly trying to get a smile or laugh. Parents will appreciate your effort and will adore those images.

2 – Don’t be afraid to give direction. A little suggestion can become an incredible catalyst for something special.

Clients come to me for my visual aesthetic and my knowledge in producing a certain level of work, so I am always prepared to give nudges for posing during their session. Building upon tip 1, I am always engaging my clients during the beginning of their session to truly watch their interactions. Some clients laugh and laugh at each other or with me and naturally produce an emotion. Some are far more reserved and I am constantly teasing them out and telling them to do this and that. There is no right or wrong type of client but knowing your vision, studying your clients’ idiosyncrasies, and giving concise directions is key. Tell them to nuzzle their partner. Have a moma tickle their little one. Tell the subjects to pretend that you are not even there. Then proceed to tip 3!

3 – Click, Click, Click.

We live in the digital camera age where we have the luxury of taking a ton of photos depending on the memory card size. Unlike film, we have far more space for those in-between moments. Don’t be afraid to hold down that shutter button when there is a magical unicorn moment. Yes, you may have a bit more work during post-processing, but I never want to lament on missing a great moment.

However, don’t overdo the shutter clicking. Be intentional. Don’t take the photo just to take the photo. Envision how you want your image, perhaps move your subjects around, and utilize tip 1 and 2.

I promise, magic will happen.


Here are some of my favorite emotional images from the last year. I intentionally made them all black and white so that you are visually not distracted by the colors. Some are carefree, some are showing utter contentment, but they all are displaying authentic emotions.

Ashburn Ga Photographer Capturing Real EmotionAshburn Ga Photographer Capturing Real EmotionAshburn Ga Photographer Capturing Real EmotionAshburn Ga Photographer Capturing Real EmotionAshburn Ga Photographer Capturing Real EmotionAshburn Ga Photographer Capturing Real EmotionAshburn Ga Photographer Capturing Real EmotionAshburn Ga Photographer Capturing Real EmotionAshburn Ga Photographer Capturing Real Emotion


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3 tips for capturing real emotion in portrait photography

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