Photography Tips for Capturing Joy

Photography Tips for Capturing Joy
June 9, 2016 Erika Thornes

Photos can convey a lot of different emotions—tenderness, longing, awe, strength, determination, and courage, for example. But capturing and preserving joy is perhaps the best of all. Here are a few ways to bring out the joyous side of your subjects, and get shots that evoke smiles.

Create joy

Sometimes joy happens unexpectedly. However, a few tricks can bring this emotion out and make it look natural, like you got lucky with your shot. Thinking about your point of view, finding the light, and color selection can bring out the feeling of joy in your images.

Having your photo subject roll in the grass (especially in a puppy costume) creates a sense of joy that you can easily showcase in your photographs.

Point of view

Let’s start with point of view. Shooting straight on is fun. It’s expected. It’s standard. But if you really want to capture something joyful, think a bit outside the box. Having a child lay down in the grass, tumble into it, and roll around in it often creates delight and giggles. It’s easy to capture a true smile when looking down at a someone who is laughing.

Choose color

You don't have to capture all of your subject to create a joyful photograph, as seen in this underwater picture of a child swimming.

Even if we can’t see the top half of the subject, the photo can still scream “joy” through the selection of colors. Yellow is known as the most joyful color (hundreds of color theorists can’t be wrong!) so use hues like yellow in your photography. Bright, bold colors will convey joy much more than muted tones.

Finding the light

This photo of a young child shows how you can capture your subjects' sense of joy with a few photography tips.

Shooting into the sun makes even the most joyful people squint and grimace. If it’s bright and sunny, put some sunglasses on your subjects, or turn them away from the glaring light and go into the shade. Shooting backlit, with the sun behind you, still conveys a sense of joy.  

Photographer Erika Thornes shares tips for capturing joy, as seen in this photo of three siblings sharing a blanket.

Remember joy

Shoot, shoot, shoot, share and save. Teresa Fae wrote, “What makes me the happiest is the joy you feel when days or years later, someone shares how much value your photographs have gained in time.”

When we look back, we remember feeling joy. Moments pass so fast, and it’s important to preserve them. So pull that camera out, and capture those precious instances of joy. 

Photographer Erika Thornes shares tips on capturing joy, as seen in this picture of two women laughing.


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Erika Thornes
Erika Thornes is a San Diego photographer who captures life as it unfolds, especially near the water, above or below. She has been recognized as a leader in silhouette photography, teaching others how to convey emotion and a story through their images.