This Is How You Make Your Work More Meaningful

How to use Emotional Intelligence in photography

I am an emotional being.

And so are you.

We often view emotions as something solely impacting or part of our “personal” life.

I have come to believe with the years that emotions are a burden, especially the negative ones, that should be shut down as much as possible in the hope they disappear eventually.

Let me tell you this:

The price I am paying for this belief today is way bigger than if I had developed the skills to deal with them when they arise.

And I am saying this while being “only” 25.

I cannot even imagine how it would look like if I waited another 20 years to start working with my emotions instead of against them.

Now, why am I telling you this?

Your emotional state will be reflected onto your relationships, your professional life, and your creative work.

Photography included.

As a photographer, I am currently finding that mastering emotions does not merely involve controlling them but harnessing them as a fundamental component of artistic expression.

Photography, at its core, is about capturing moments that evoke feelings and thoughts.

This makes emotional intelligence a central asset in a photographer’s toolkit.

Whether it's waiting for the perfect light, capturing the invisible at night, or simply deciding which scene best reflects the story you wish to tell, each decision is filled with emotion.

In this letter we dive into how developing your emotional intelligence can elevate your photography from simple pictures to profound narratives.

1. Understanding Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI in short) is the ability to recognize, understand, manage, and use emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict.

It helps us navigate the social complexities of life.

It helps us make personal decisions that achieve positive results.

It helps us assessing a situation without reacting to it.

It helps us communicating and connecting with others.

For photographers, each component of EI offers a unique advantage:

  • Self-awareness allows you to understand your own emotions and how they affect your work.

  • Self-regulation ensures you don’t make hasty decisions about your shots. Example is not going to the edge of that cliff just for a shot.

  • Motivation drives you to pursue new projects and creative ideas, even when they involve challenges or failures.

  • Empathy enables you to see through the eyes of others, capturing images that resonate on a universal level.

  • Social skills help in networking and collaborating with others, which is crucial in projects and growing as an artist.

2. The Role of Emotions in Photography

Photography is not just about technical skill.

It's profoundly influenced by your emotional state.

Emotions can alter how you envision a scene, how you capture it, and how you edit it.

Here are two personal examples:

This image was shot about 2 years ago. When I went to that cave, I had just come back from a bit of a traumatic experience in another ice cave in Switzerland, leaving me with a fear of that natural environment.

I decided to go back to an ice cave to challenge that fear, and at the same time to express it into the work itself.

Without me realising, I had captured what looks like a skull with the cave ceiling. It came to my attention only after I showed the image to other people around me. The dark, almost morbid feeling that is expressed in that image is the direct reflection of my own experience of ice caves at the time.

The image above I consider to be the opposite example compared to the previous one.

This image represents a special form of love I felt that evening in Peru.

A love for the art of photography and where it brings me.

A love for the people I was with.

A love for the life I get to experience.

I tried my best to express that sense of tenderness with the colour palette and the flowers for this image, while balancing it out with the grandeur of the mountains behind.

Photographers and artists must learn to channel their emotions into their work, allowing feelings of awe, joy, sadness, or tranquility to guide the outcome.

Understanding the emotional impact of your images on viewers can deepen the connection between the artist and the audience, making your work more impactful and relatable.

3. Emotional Intelligence in The Field

Sometimes, the challenges are as much emotional as they are technical.

The unpredictable weather, the waiting, and often the isolation require you to be not just technically skilled but emotionally resilient.

Self-regulation comes into play significantly.

For instance, managing frustration when conditions are not ideal or controlling excitement to maintain focus on a long exposure (something I was not able to do on my last trip in Norway with the Auroras; I tried doing timelapses but ended up interrupting them because I wasn’t patient enough).

These situations test your ability to remain balanced and patient.

Developing emotional intelligence also involves dealing with the solitude that comes with the activity.

Some enjoy doing it with other people, and some might be more on their own.

And if you happen to enjoy the activity solo, solitude allows for deep reflection and connection with your surroundings, opening up opportunities to capture truly unique images that a distracted or frustrated mind might miss.

Emotional intelligence can transform not only personal interactions but also the way we create and share art.

For us photographers, developing a keen sense of emotional awareness is not just about improving oneself but about bringing a richer, deeper perspective to the work you do.

One that truly captures the essence of a moment or a place.

As you journey into the medium, or whatever it is that you do as a creative pursuit, consider how much your emotions influence your work.

And how by understanding and managing them, you can not only see a different world but show it to others as well.

If you read that far, thank you for your time.

See you in the next one,