How Photography Made Me Smile in Times of Darkness

How Photography Made Me Smile in Times of Darkness

"Laughter is the best medicine," they say. Find out how I used photography and laughter to overcome feelings of sadness in this photo series called "The Beauty of Laughter."

Let's rewind to 2014. I was a sophomore in high school, and I was going through some pretty dark times. I had no sense of focus or direction of where I wanted to go with my life. That is when I found my voice and discovered the power of photography. I picked up a camera for the first time and started using it as a tool to express the true emotions that I was feeling inside. During this dark time, all I wanted to do was to smile and laugh, and photography was the tool that helped me accomplish that.

So, for the next week during our one-hour lunch break, I grabbed my camera, set up a few lights, and started "The Beauty of Laughter" series. I invited my friends to come and participate in the project, and thankfully, they agreed. The goal of this series was, through photography and portraits, to spread positivity and happiness into the world.  

How I Got Them to Laugh

Trying to make anybody laugh is quite a challenging task, let alone with a group of high schoolers. The goal was to capture something honest and real, something that was not staged. I wanted the subject to fully burst out in laughter, instead of the cheesy yearbook style smiles we're all used to seeing. I wanted my subjects to forget the camera was even there and to just have a good time. To help them forget about the camera, I invited the subjects' friends to stand behind the camera and tell them their favorite jokes, watch their favorite Vine videos, or to just make goofy faces. This technique ended up being very effective, and I would highly recommend using it if you're photographing kids or anybody who is not comfortable posing in front of the camera. Since laughing is contagious, as they laughed, my face lit up and I laughed as well. 

The Settings

For this series, I tried to keep it simple. I wanted the focus to be put solely on the person. I photographed all of the portraits in black and white against a black backdrop. For the series, I wanted to keep everything in focus and give myself the flexibility to capture the subjects' spontaneity and unpredictable movements. 

Camera: Canon 5D Mark III

Lens: Rokinon 50 f/1.4 

Settings: f/, 1/160 s, ISO 500

The Lighting

The front light is a strobe with a 27-inch beauty dish and is aimed straight at the subject. It is placed 6 inches above the subject. The flash is at full power. Behind the subject at 45 degrees is the backlight. It is another strobe at half power.

The Final Photos

Laughter truly is the best medicine. After completing this project, I was able to see the light in the world and capture the beauty of the people who live in it. I am humbled to share these smiles with you and hope they brighten your day. 

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Eli Dreyfuss is a professional portrait photographer based in sunny Miami, Florida. He focuses on making ordinary people look like movie stars in his small home studio. Shortly after graduating high school he quickly established himself in the art world and became an internationally awarded & published artist.

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Great sensible minds think alike. I have been following a similar vein of thought for a number of years.

Thanks so much for the kind words!