Evoking emotion in landscape photography: The importance of creating a connection with the viewer


posted Tuesday, July 30, 2019 at 6:00 AM EDT


A great landscape image is not simply a photograph of a beautiful landscape. It is much more than that. To create a truly powerful landscape photo, your image must evoke emotion in the viewer. How does one use landscape photos to evoke emotion? In his latest video, seen below, landscape photographer Nigel Danson discusses this topic. Early in the video, Danson shares an excellent quote from famed landscape photographer Ansel Adams, "A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed."

With photography, it's not always so clear how you, as a landscape photographer, are supposed to create an emotional response in your viewer. It's worth considering that there can be a rift between how an image you captured makes you feel versus how it makes a viewer feel. For example, a very blue, dark image may bring you great joy because you remember how hard you worked to capture the image and you remember enjoying that day. However, a viewer who doesn't know the backstory of an image will not have those some associated memories and will likely take something much less happy from a dark, brooding landscape. It is also worth considering the context in which an image is viewed. The emotional response of seeing an image on your phone through Instagram versus seeing a large framed print can be very different.

To help get to the bottom of evoking emotion, Danson sent a series of images to people on his subscriber list. Of the 10,000 emails he sent out, half of the recipients saw his images with titles and the other half saw the images without titles. The same image evoked numerous different types of emotions in people. In some cases, emotions were polar opposites. Perhaps the critical element not as much about evoking a specific emotion as it is about creating a strong reaction in the viewer and letting their imagination work with the photo.

As you can see in the video above, a common theme among Danson's images which have proven to resonate strongest with viewers is that the photos were captured after spending a lot of time at a particular location. Danson believes that becoming intimately familiar with a particular area will better allow you to create powerful landscape images. Your knowledge, appreciation and passion will show through. Of course, special moments can happen even if you aren't making repeated visits to the same location. When a special landscape opportunity arises, what are some specific steps you can take behind the camera to ensure you come home with a powerful, evocative photograph? Danson argues that patterns and symmetry are important.

Much like Danson himself did, soliciting the opinions of others regarding your photographs is a great way to learn more about which images in your portfolio stand out and form stronger connections with viewers. It is especially difficult to separate your own emotional connection with an image from the photo itself, which is why learning how your work makes other people feel is so important. To see more of Nigel Danson's work, visit his website and follow him on Instagram.

(Via Nigel Danson