Photo challenge: photographing emotions

Note: I’ve been getting a lot of feedback from people asking for some shorter workshops. So Di and I have developed some weekend workshops in my favourite cities. They are going to be like giant shots of espresso – 48 hours of total photography – skills, fun, tonnes of image taking, setting challenges. These aren’t dawn workshops – but instead are focusing on capturing the spirit, people and landscape of each of these cool cities. More details.

A photo challenge for you

This challenge was inspired by the Picasso quote:

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun”

Yesterday I talked about the importance of sharing and showing your work. It gives your work a new dimension when other people engage with it. And I love to know that I am creating photos that make a connection with my viewer. I don’t want my photos to just be glanced at, then forgotten.

If you want your photos to be meaningful for people then – what becomes such an essential part of photography then – or any act of creating, painting, music – is imbuing your photos with feeling. Even if you have everything else perfect – great composition, beautiful light, perfect exposure, there will be *something missing* if the photo isn’t imbued with feeling. It will be looked at and forgotten.

And this starts with you. As Don McCullin says:

“If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”

Despair, desolation?

So my challenge to you today is: decide on an emotion you want to communicate, find it and photograph it! Now, why decide before you go out and take the photo? Because I want this to be a decisive act. I want you to see how you can train your awareness by making a choice to seek out and find one particular emotion. And after all – what you concentrate on expands, right? (that’s new brain science there for you!)

Or you could think about it this way. You always notice things more when they come into your life – so when your wife is pregnant there seem to be pregnant women everywhere. Or your friend buys a yellow car, and then as if from nowhere, yellow cars appear everywhere. (This isn’t a trick, it’s just the fact that your mind blocks out most things in the outside world because there is too much stimuli, it’s too tiring to go around noticing everything, so your brain helpfully blocks most information.)

Now the obvious way to communicate feeling is through human beings. But I don’t want you to photograph people’s faces. I want you to seek out that emotion and capture it in the world around you – in everything but faces.

I want you to look for the feelings that you experience when looking at light, the ocean, a puddle on a rainy day – or a door, a set of deck chairs, a pavement filled with children’s chalk drawings.


There are so many emotions to choose from, how lucky! How about sadness? Joy? Love? Fear? Excitement? Anticipation? Disgust? Here are some popular emotions – but don’t confine yourself to just these. Play around and find something you are really interested in.


Last rule – you can use people figuratively – but not as the main subject.

*Tip: it really helps if you are in the mood that you are trying to capture. It’s like your feelings flow out of you and into the camera. But it is still possible to recreate that feeling if you are mindful enough.

Here are some examples from me of emotions and feelings I’ve created in my images.

The chilly feeling of foreboding….





lone walker


paris_11 (1)


20160417_venice_397 (1) (1)

Hmm…what’s the feeling here? I think the yellows and the greys communicate something quite distinctly….

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Advertisers are always trying to communicate feelings with their images, so they must be powerful 🙂

And I would love to see what you come up with. Email me ( I can’t wait to see what you come up with! And please comment below, let me know what you think.

Have an awesome week,

Anthony and Diana

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