How to Evoke Emotions in Your Photos:

eric kim street photography black and white hands hanoimonochrome -0005801

Photos without emotion are dead:

Why capture emotions in photography?


The etymology (origin of the word ’emotion’) comes from the following:

From French émotion, from émouvoir ‎(“excite”) based on Latin ēmōtus, past participle of ēmoveō ‎(“to move out, move away, remove, stir up, agitate”), from ē- ‎(“out”) (variant of ex-), and moveō ‎(“move”).

So to me, emotion in a photograph is what stirs up, agitates, or moves us.

If you look at a photograph, it should change your mental state. It should evoke a feeling, a thought, or move you to think in a different way:


One of the emotions I love is happiness. To me, happiness as an emotion can be manifested in many different ways. A practical way is through laughter.

For example, this is one of my favorite photos: a photo of my grandma laughing:

halmunee-grandma-eric kim photography seoul-0003562-2
My Grandma, Seoul, 2017

How did I get the shot? Here is the contact:

To start off, I visited my grandma (around 82 years old), and wanted to document our experience together. I first photographed her a bit on the couch, then she told me she looked too shabby, so she got dressed up.

She then came out of the room and said: “I’m ready now!” (she was decked out in his fashionable clothes).

So we went to one of her bedrooms, and I tried to photograph her against a simple white background (in the spirit of Richard Avedon). I wanted her against a simple white background, for there to be no distractions.

I have been trying to photograph more happy emotions in my photos, like laughter. I thought about my favorite ‘laughing lady’ photo:

eric kim laughing lady nyc 2015

The way I got the lady in NYC to laugh is by taking a lot of photos. Half-way through the series of images, the lady says: “You’re crazy!” and starts laughing. I just got one shot of her laughing:

eric kim laughing lady contact

Actually recently, I got another photo (quite similar) here in Hanoi:

eric kim street photography hanoi-0004960
Hanoi, 2017

Anyways, I wanted to evoke laughter from my grandma– to make a happy image.

To get her to laugh, I told her:

Grandma, start laughing–just like me! “HAHAHAHAHAHA!”

And she started to imitate my laughter, and I kept taking a lot of photos with a flash. The last photo was the best. I’m glad I ‘worked the scene.’

The world needs more laughing ladies:


Depression, anxiety, fear:

Another series of images for my ‘Suits‘ project, photographing the existential dread I (used) to have when I worked a full-time, 9-5 job.

The way I captured these negative emotions is from hand-gestures, body language, and the look in people’s eyes:

My tip is to shoot with your heart. If you’re feeling moody, you will probably also be drawn to depressed, anxious, or frustrated people.

Shoot with empathy, and you can build stronger emotional connections with your subjects.