Street Photography – Expressions

Facial expressions are a form of communication, a non-verbal type, that we read every day.  An expressionless face is like painting with only one color.  Rarely, though, will a face be completely expressionless…  We read micro expressions throughout the day, sometimes without even knowing it.  Has someone ever given you that creepy feeling and you can’t put your finger on it?  Chances are your subconscious noticed a creepy micro expression (maybe a half-smile at an inappropriate time or mischievous glances).

Showing expression in your photography can have a profound influence on how viewers will interpret what you’ve captured.  Sad faces can make viewers feel empathy, happy faces can cause disgust a warm happy feeling.  According to Dr. Ekman, who studied facial expressions extensively, there are six universal facial expressions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust) that are recognized universally around the world.  Facial expression is a form of communication that does not need translated in your photography.


Capturing a subjects expression can change a photograph dramatically, from boring to interesting.  For instance:



Less Boring


Simply waiting a few seconds between shots can yield a completely different facial expression amongst subjects.  You’ll need to get close enough to your subject to see their facial expression so if you’re new to street photography you may want to use a longer prime lens for this.

Got kids?  Children make great subjects so long as they are your own, otherwise tread carefully when photographing strangers children (sitting in your neighbors bushes with a telephoto lens, photographing through their windows, is not treading lightly).  If you have your own kiddos you can practice capturing their crazy facial expressions and take note of how the different expressions change the photograph.

If you’d like to share your results you can head on over to our Facebook page and post your great shots there.  Good luck!

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