Five Tips to Help You Better Capture Emotions and Moments

Capturing emotion is not an easy task. It requires being in the center of the action and perfect timing to press the shutter. But that is not it. Creating moving images are more demanding than just placement and synchronization. Famous sport and music photographer Michael Zagaris joins Marc Silber on "Advancing Your Photography" and gives us his essential tips to come up with touching pictures.

Connect With People

When photographing intimate moments, it’s easier when the subject knows and trust you. Professional cameras and lenses can be intimidating in a typical situation, so when things get personal, it can become even worse. Thus the importance of connecting with people and becoming invisible to their eyes.

Experience the Moment

To actually become invisible, you must live the moment with others. A great example is wedding photography. Many beginners think that by staying away from the guests and shooting portraits with their 70-200mm zoomed all the way in, they are discreet. In reality, it’s quite the opposite. Blending in and shooting up close is more often than not the best way to have your subject forget about you.

However, just being close to the action and your subject isn’t enough. Experiencing it and living it makes it much easier. You don’t need to push it as far as Zagaris who used to get makeup done with the Rolling Stones, but to keep the wedding example, act as if you were a guest.

Gear Must Be Secondary

While many like to say gear doesn’t matter, I firmly believe it does. Or at least, knowing the ins and outs of your camera, lenses, and flashes does. If you have to think about what aperture to use and how to adjust it while something is happening in front of you, chances are by the time you start changing your settings the moment is gone.

Capturing emotion, just like Zagaris describes in his video is all about flow. If you cannot anticipate things and feel the flow of the moment, you will miss shots and emotions. I like to compare taking journalistic style pictures to driving a manual car. When driving, you first need to learn how to change gear, how the clutch works, and then you can start to concentrate on the road. Journalistic photography is very similar. Your camera has to become part of you; it must become a reflex to adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO on the fly. Without it, you will struggle to capture emotion and moments.

Bring Your Vision to Reality

Now that you connected with your subject and got a feel for what's going on, and that your gear is part of your body, it’s time to shoot. Framing has an enormous impact on the conveyed emotion. For example, the use of a wide-angle lens while shooting close will give a sense of proximity and include more of the surroundings, or the use of leading lines to frame your subject will help make it stand out, just like colors could emphasize the overall mood of the image.

Emotions can be intensified or neutralized by your composition. When you arrive somewhere, be sure to analyze the scene, anticipate what you want to shoot and plan ahead. Having a vision in mind before the moment comes will considerably help in capturing the emotion while creating a stunning image. Both are great on their own, but bringing them together is even better.

Shoot What Moves You

Zagaris said it well in the video, and his work shows it. Photography is a beautiful art that gets us in places otherwise inaccessible to most of us. We have that chance to live and experience things that others cannot. It’s an opportunity to embrace to its fullest, but it’s only achievable if we love what we do, and photograph what we love.

By taking pictures of what moves us, it’s more than likely that it will move others as well. So keep shooting what you are mad about and share it with the world.

Quentin Decaillet's picture

Quentin Décaillet is a photographer and retoucher based in Switzerland specializing in portrait and wedding photography.

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Very interesting reading, particularly when you write about connecting with people

Very interesting interview