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Tips for Showing the Emotion of Joy/Happiness in Photographs

written by: digitaldan1•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 11/26/2009

Photographers are often called upon to show a particular emotion or feeling. This article offers tips on showing joy and happiness in your images.

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    Introduction

    One of the challenges commonly faced by professional photographers is showing a particular emotion. The last article in this series covered showing sadness or loneliness. This time around, let's look at the opposite extreme, showing joy or happiness.

    Body language and facial expression are very important in showing emotion. Models and subjects who can demonstrate a particular expression need to exaggerate it a little on camera for best results. Often, physical movement is helpful for showing emotions such as happiness. One of my favorite models, a professional actress, likes to throw her hands up over her head and smile broadly when she wants to show happiness. Adding some color, or props such as flowers, can also provide a sense of joy to an image as can a playful scene, as can having the model toss them in the air.

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    Lindsey Miller jumps for joy.Porsche Brosseau gets some flowers.
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    Jumping for joy

    For my shoot with Lindsey I went with the unrestrained enthusiasm this delightful college student is capable of showing. Lindsey's very good at jumping for joy and so we opted for this approach. Some things to keep in mind when creating a shot like this include making sure you use a fast enough shutter speed to prevent "ghosting" (if too much ambient light registers during exposure you'll have an image generated by the light from the flash and a "ghost" image generated by the image created by the ambient light). Many DSLRs offer a flash sync speed of 1/250th of a second, which, when combined with the light from a flash unit, is fast enough to stop action quite effectively. Slower settings (say below 1/60th of a second) put the risk of a ghost image too high.

    Don't have the services of a professional model like Lindsey available? Have your subject do something they enjoy doing or have them do something silly. Most people when asked to act that way can't help but look happy once they get into the moment. Having them blow soap bubbles or try to juggle are effective tricks.

Photographing Emotions

There are several techniques and tricks to photographing emotions. These tactics vary depending on the type of emotion you're trying to capture.
  1. Tips on How to Photograph the Emotion of Loneliness
  2. Tips for Showing the Emotion of Joy/Happiness in Photographs