Evoking Emotion

One of the challenges I have with photography is trying to find the “optimal” setting for everything, and trying to overanalyze everything in a logical sense. (Can’t you tell I have a technical background?)

  • Should I increase the highlights/shadows slider by 30% or 50%?
  • Is this “too much contrast” or is it better to desaturate colors?
  • Did I shoot from the right angle?
  • Are the corners sharp enough or should I stop down? Would anyone notice?
  • Does this camera suck because it only has 11 stops of dynamic range vs 13?

Especially with post-processing, when I could always go back and edit a finished RAW, the endless possibilities can lead to paralysis.

When am I satisfied? When is an image “finished”?

There are technical solutions to some of these questions, such as using the histogram and avoiding blown highlights, but many questions have no answers.

In the end, I realized the final criterion for creating a product is emotion.

What emotions am I trying to convey via this image? How does this image make me feel, and is that feeling what I want to express?

After I realized that I could compose and process an image contrary to standard conventions (rule of thirds etc), and it would actually work, I stopped tinkering and started creating.

There’s the type of photography to that catalogs things: “ooh that’s a nice tourist building suitable for an Instagram selfie or crisp desktop background” and photography to express emotion: “the vastness of this rainy landscape makes me feel sad”. As I continue taking pictures, I move from the former to the latter.