Shooting emotion & cheating the shot with knowledge of subject

One of the nights I was in Aspen, after a long day of hiking I was enjoying a beverage in the mostly empty small lodge bar of my hotel when a kid walked in with his guitar and started singing some songs. There’s a story behind these shots, and if you’re reading this I’d like you to consider the question at the bottom of this post.

Around the guitar player was a group of older women which I later found out was his mother and some friends. I was enjoying the live music when it occurred to me that it was a good chance to practice shooting people. One of the things I dislike about a lot of my photos so far is that for the most part, they don’t convey a sense of emotion (yet) but I’m at least aware of that and am trying to figure out what that means and how to adjust composition to include an idea of what I am going for in each photo.


I had learned from his mom that he was having a hard day. I later learned, after several rounds of glasses of wine, that earlier that day his father had suffered a heart attack and was in the hospital. I didn’t learn any further details than that other than it looked like dad was going to be okay.

However, armed with what felt like inside information, I felt a little like I was cheating: I now had a direction I wanted to go for my photos bu only because I was basing it off what I knew:

– Mother (naturally) adored her guitar playing son
– Son was a little emotionally wrecked that day

I realize not everyone will have a basic understanding of their subjects ahead of time in order to capture an essence of emotion or story in each shot, and that often times you’d just make your own (the photo is a lie!) But I considered the knowledge a sort of guideline for the photos I wanted to have as an end result.

Did I succeed, or did the story I just told you sway how you viewed these photos?

I had a great time that night and the experience was a pleasant one – I got their emails and said I’d send the photos their way, I was happy to hear it sounded like everything was going to be okay and chilling out that night in the bar was one of my favorite things we did that week.

Shot with a combination of a D3S and a D800 using a 50mm 1.4 and a 28-300mm 5.6.

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One Response to Shooting emotion & cheating the shot with knowledge of subject

  1. Pingback: Wot I Learned: Low Light & High Shutter Speeds | Less Than Amateur

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