Photography Tips

How to capture real emotion in photographs

Have you ever looked at a picture and thought – “Wow – – I wish my pictures looked like that!”  What is it that makes a good photograph?  I wish I could say that there is just one thing, but in reality there a millions (well, maybe not millions but certainly a lot) of things.

From a technical perspective you need to consider focus, shutter speed, aperture, iso, white balance etc.  From an artistic perspective there is tonality and composition to name a few.

Today though, I want to talk about emotion.  I don’t think you can say one thing is more important than the other because if you have great emotion, but the shot is out of focus, it won’t matter.  If you have a technically perfect image but the subject is staring blankly at the camera (think mug shot) it definitely won’t make the wall!

So . . .  how do you get this elusive connection?  Keep reading for a few of my go to tips!


1 – Let them interact with each other!


Sometimes (well, most times) kids hate being photographed if they think it is something they have to do.  What is it about kids that make them not want to do want parents want??  Anyway, I have found that if I can get them to interact (i.e. play) with each other then they forget all about me.  Keep in mind though that if you just say “go interact with each other” you will probably get blank stares.  Be prepared to give them ideas . . . here I told them to play “say, say my playmate”.  Unfortunately, they had no idea what that was!  It made me feel old because my sisters and I did that hand game all the time!  Anyway, once I showed them they loved it.

Below I told them to give each other a kiss.  Look what adorable shots you can get with a simple kiss!



When mom’s involved it’s super easy!  Kids love when they have mom’s undivided attention – – give mom a flower, give her a hug, give her a kiss – – the options are endless.


Just so you don’t think it always works, I give you the below image.   I told them to hug each other – – maybe I pushed my luck during this session because this happened (lol).  Hey, at least it makes me laugh.


2 – Let them move!

If you have a child or have ever observed one you will notice one thing . . . they do NOT like to stand still!  You can NOT expect a child to sit in one spot the whole time!  I like to harness their incredible amount of energy and put it to good use.

Ask them to dance – – add a prop and you have an adorable image!


Have them do cart wheels!




Toss them!


I think you get the point – – keep them moving and you will keep them smiling and having real joy and you will be able to photograph real emotion.

3.  Let them be still

Yes, I just told you to let them be crazy and keep them moving but there are sooo many emotions you can capture and joy/laughter are just a few.  I love to capture peaceful contemplative emotion too.  When photographing clients I find these are best right at the beginning, if I have tentative children, or at the very end when they are tired and they think I’m done.  It’s hard to go right from tossing a child to getting these snuggly moments so play it by ear when photographing your own children or clients.




4.  Finally, be a quiet observer

This is probably my most favorite kind of image to take.  These are the moments that as a mom I desperately want to remember.  The key to these images is not letting them know you are photographing them.  Normally, I say “just go over there and I’m going to get my settings ready”.  This way, I get genuine emotion.  If they think I’m photographing them they inevitably turn and smile . . . remember point one where I mentioned they never like to do what they are supposed to??



That’s it for now!  If you like these tutorials hop on over to my Facebook page and “like it” to stay connected.

If you have questions or have a topic you would like to me to cover leave a comment for me!

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