Jennifer Coffey

Grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and enjoy!

The Emotion of Photographs

These photos that I am about to show you all beautiful, functional, reflective. These three components make up well-executed design ideas that can make us happy. 

First, who doesn’t love to look at beautiful photos? By creating a good composition, the viewer can break the photo down into the smallest detail. 

The function of these three photos is to show serenity, joy, and ecstasy. According to the Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions, these are a part of an emotion color wheel. There are several combinations of different emotions and their opposites, but today I will focus on a combination of optimism and love. As humans, we need a sense of love and belonging. 

Lastly, these images are reflective and can tell a story. Reflectiveness is actually one of the three levels of emotional response (Norman). It is also a way that we can connect to one another. 

Before we get started, I would like to point out that color in a photograph can also envoke emotion. The photos that I have chosen today are all in black in white. I believe that black and white images allow us to see past meaning in color and focus solely on the photos’ emotions. 



A quiet moment before one of the most important days of her life. The image shows continuity, simplicity, and parallelism. The continuity of the circular dress leads the viewer to look around the bride in a circle. Each women has a smile of their face as they look toward the new bride. The black and white color adds to the simplicity of the photo, but the solid black background frames the subject of the photo without any unnecessary distraction. There are also many parallels in this photo. There are two lines framing the bride in white while there are two women on the left and right side of the image. Overall, these elements give the image a beautifully calm design.

Despite the fact this women is standing in a wedding dress, the other small details all give clues into the story of the image. The women is standing tall, confident, and is clearly happy to be there. The tilt of her head could symbolize her optimism and love of her new marriage.

The contrast of the photo makes us concentrate on the black and white. The ray of white illuminating the smiling bride as everyone looks on indicates that all these women are happy to be their and support her in any way.



The major element in this photo is similarity. The bright laughing faces of these children is contagious with the viewer. The similarity of their faces causes the viewer to almost here their giggles.

With a simple background, the viewer immediately glances on the subject of the photo. Since almost all of their eyes are closed, the viewer then glances at their upturned mouths. The wide open mouth laugh gives an indication of a loud, big, belly laugh. Another indication of the intense emotion of joy is the head thrown back, doubling over, and holding the belly.

The big happy smiles with the white teeth are a clear indicator of the joy these children are experiencing. It was the first thing that I noticed and what initially drew me into the photo.



The main element in this photo is symmetry. With the short, young boy in the center of the photo, the viewer quickly looks to the left and right to survey the front of the crowd. With three women on the left and three women on the right, the viewer isn’t drawn to a particular before the other.

There is a clear range of intense emotions from this crowd. From wonder, to shock, happiness, ecstasy, and excitement, the viewer can almost hear the screaming fans. Another indicator of the excitement is the way they are interacting with each other while keeping their focus on whatever they are screaming about. They are all packed in tight, holding on to each other, or holding their hands high in the air. All of these reactions are indicators are pure excitement.

Since the photo is in black and white, the viewer is forced to look at large contrasts of color. The shadows around their hairline made me look at their face. That is how I got the clear indicator of their excitement and love for whatever/whoever they are looking at.


The progression of the images show smiling faces, laughter, and full on hysterics. The details of the image such as parallelism, similarity, and symmetry make the photo stand out from photos that don’t include any of Gestalt elements. Overall, these images represent optimism and love as each subject lives in the moment that they will hopefully remember for the rest of their lives.


Bushe, L. (n.d.). Simplicity, symmetry and more: Gestalt theory and the design principles it gave birth to. Retrieved from

Cao, J. (2018, June 11). Web design color theory: How to create the right emotions with color in web design. Retrieved September 04, 2020, from

Freddusya (Director). (2012, April 12). Design for Emotion (Aarron Walter) [Video file]. Retrieved 2020, from

Norman, D. (Director). (2003). 3 ways good design makes you happy [Video file]. Retrieved September 04, 2020, from

Norman, D. (n.d.). DESIGNERS AND USERS: TWO PERSPECTIVES ON EMOTION AND DESIGN1. Retrieved from 2005/communication material/DESIGNERS AND USERS_Norman.pdf

Putting Some Emotion into Your Design – Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. (n.d.). Retrieved September 04, 2020, from

2 responses to “The Emotion of Photographs”

  1. Selecting all black and white images is a really interesting choice. Just as you said–it really strips away shallow assumptions and draws out the content of the photos. I wonder, though, if it also puts more emphasis on body language over elements the designer can control. To capture an amazing black and white photo, you would truly need to wait and skillfully capture moments. Color is another tool in a creator’s toolbox that can elicit desired responses.
    The light frame and its affect on the bride make that first photo beautifully impactful.
    A discussion of perception and processing could really add to these analysis. Thanks for sharing these artistic renderings of happiness!


  2. Hi Jennifer! I think you chose images that really show the emotions you say they do. However, I found it interesting that all of them are in black and white. I thought that color would have a played a big role in portraying joy. But, you were fully able to show the different aspects of joy in each photo without the use of color. Since there wasn’t color, I was able to look at the lighting more. Overall, you did a great job!


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