Photography And The Emotional Response

by Art Editor, Carl Scharwath

Henrik Ibsen first said, “A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.” Likewise, as the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” With photography, I believe there are “1000 ways to take a photo.”

A beautiful Florida walk in the woods, and there it is! Four trees of different sizes draped in Spanish moss, both eerie and beautiful at the same time. The shadows dance everywhere. Four photographers are about to take a photo, and the results are all different. One might use a different perspective and framing, another concentrates on the play between light and shadow, the third takes just a close-up of the intricate webbing of the moss, and the fourth adds the flowers six feet in front of the trees for a pop of color. So, we have four different results, but maybe only one will command an emotional response and be the one to be published.

Emotional Response:

Your picture may be brilliant in terms of its technical properties and visual beauty, but it also has to have a strong emotional impact on your viewers. When you take a photo, please think of this impact for a few seconds while setting up your shot, as this can make all the difference in having your art published.


You also have to think of the story your photo will tell. You have two options to meet this challenge: open stories or closed stories. Open stories provide a lot of freedom to you and your audience. Perhaps the viewer’s personal experiences will guide them in interpreting your story through their own emotions. Your photo could elicit a happy or sad memory of their past; these photos will be the most powerful. On the other hand, a closed story does not allow your photo to have many open-ended interpretations, as both you and your viewer would reach the same conclusion.

Which style you choose does not matter. What matters is, again, to draw an emotional response from your viewer and for your photo to be heavily layered with meaning, if possible. This is most difficult, as it does not allow the random taking of pictures that are merely beautiful, but instead challenges you as the photographer to take it to the next level.


I will now share some tools that I have used in my own photography. First, I never use Photoshop. Instead, to get some special effects, I love taking photos of store windows. You can get some amazing reflections off the glass of the cityscape behind you, or you can bring that beautiful mannequin in the window right out into the street. A simple mirror can also create some spectacular images.

I also love double exposure, or overlaying one image on top of another. Using this technique, you can add the model or a photo over another photo, creating an instant special effect. A great place to find the base photo is a local antique store. They are loaded with items from the past, and yes, history equals storytelling.

A great instant storytelling photo is one taken of abandoned buildings, common items, surrealistic model poses, or extreme close-ups, all of which can add mystery and excitement for your viewers.

Since I am also a painter, my newest style is doing an abstract painting on a small canvas. I take a photo of the canvas, then double expose another photo over it for a colorful and different effect. However, you do not have to be a painter to accomplish this, as any abstract painting will work with the right positioning.

Finally, my absolute favorite photo project is ekphrastic poetry. When I first shared my photography on Facebook, poets would ask me if they could write a poem for my photography. Now, as an artist, this is the most beautiful compliment you can receive. It means your photography not only evoked an emotional response, but another talented artist was inspired enough to take the time and write a poem for your photography. This is a great way to work as a team, make new friends, and support each other. I am happy to say I have worked with over ten poets, and every one of them had at least one work published with me as a team.

Photography is an enjoyable art, and not that time-consuming. Please find a style that fits you, and do not be afraid to submit your work. If you ever need help or have a question, please find me on Facebook, and I would be honored to help you.

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