If there is one thing that makes my heart truly sing, it’s freezing a moment of pure bliss on a photograph.

I’m not talking about a simple smile here, I’m talking about raw, uninhibited, exuberant JOY.

Recently, a friend asked me why I was obsessing so much about joy, because as she said “Life is not always joyful” which is perfectly (and sadly) true.

The first reason is very selfish: because it nurtures me. Capturing joy makes ME blissfully happy. Spending hours on my computer editing images filled with laughter and carefree moments is the best job I could ever dream of. It makes my heart burst!

Secondly, as a family photographer, I want my clients to remember how happy they were together. Even though life is not a succession of blissful moments, joy is a part of it, and I strongly believe that being able to remember how happy life can be sometimes is the best way to reconnect with your inner joy. At least it works for me, powerfully.

Teaching the Capturing Joy workshop has also made me realize that photographing happy moments can have a different meaning for each photographer, that we all have personal reasons to instill our photography with happiness and laughter. This is why I asked 5 alumni of the Capturing Joy workshop to share their own vision, and explain why they would recommend to other photographers to fill their images with joy, too.

1. Because your images will have a strong impact on the viewer

by Kellie Bieser

In the midst of shooting, it is so easy for us photographers to focus on only what we can see through the viewfinder. We are trained to pay careful attention to what is within the frame and are often directing our subjects to look their best in front of the camera. However, we must be careful not to forget who is arguably the most important participant in our creative process: the final viewer. It is our job to translate the emotions of our subjects to our audience.

When I capture joy in my own images, I love that my work will evoke this happiest of emotions for the viewer. I know that my audience will instantly connect to my work because joy is so wonderfully contagious! In infusing our images with joy, we have the opportunity to not only witness a single moment of happiness, but also to spread joy to anyone who encounters our work into an infinite future.

Read 3 tips to capturing joyful photos here.

big sister playing with little brother picture by Kellie Bieser
photo by Kellie Bieser
Kellie Bieser
photo by Kellie Bieser

2. Because it will make YOU feel happier, too

by Michelle Kersey

Capturing Joy in our images starts with the photographer. What message, what FEELING, does the photographer want to give the viewer? How does the photographer work with the subject to pull out the emotions they want to convey?

I typically choose joy. I feed off the energy of others, good or bad. I love to surround myself with GOOD emotions because, really, who doesn’t want to be happy?! I want to make others happy too. It brings me joy to make someone smile or laugh.

So, I make it a point during my sessions and with my children to choose happiness, to exude happiness, as the emotion I give. When I start with that, I receive joy ten fold through my camera. I constantly engage my subjects. Joking. Laughing. Using all sorts of methods to flip their happiness switch.

I also prompt the families to do things that will create spontaneous, real, joy. There is really nothing better for me; nothing fills my happiness cup more than knowing from the moment I clicked the shutter that I caught a true joyful moment. I usually leave a session emotionally and physically exhausted. But it’s always worth it. For in the end, I have captured true joy; real smiles; loving, fun moments. It’s my fuel.

happy photo of mother and son by Michelle Kersey
photo by Michelle Kersey
smiling brother and sister on a road by Michelle Kersey
photo by Michelle Kersey

3. Because your kids will finally LOVE being photographed

by Kristy Harrison

Last January, I was in a helpless place with my photography. My oldest child, my inspiration to become a better photographer, had no interest in being photographed. She would run or cry whenever I brought the camera out. Capturing Joy caught my eye, and I signed up for the first run.

Lisa’s insight revolutionized the way I shoot at home. Rather than direct my children, I learned to bring the joy and present them with a competition, game, or pretend play to make it fun for them to participate (while sneaking in a few shots for myself as well).

Now, my kids invent concepts of their own, and my oldest asks to be photographed! If you approach your shoot with a happy heart and engage your children in a fun activity, then you will capture genuine smiles and create happy memories in the process!

See a preview of the Capturing Joy workshop here.

fun photo of child blowing bubbles by Kristy Harrison
photo by Kristy Harrison
Kristy Harrison
photo by Kristy Harrison

4. Because your clients want to remember how happy they were together

by Maggie Fuller

Ultimately, our clients want to remember how much energy, love and happiness surrounded them every single day. Capturing real, happy emotions is a great way to allow clients to remember the tickling, the cuddling, and the family jokes.

As a photographer it is an unbelievable opportunity to give the client the ability to hear the unstoppable laugh, feel the smooth cheeks, and see the twinkle in their child’s eye years later by just looking at a photo.

War On Seriousness: a personal photo project.

father tickling son photo by Maggie Fuller
photo by Maggie Fuller
mom and son laughing picture by Maggie Fuller
photo by Maggie Fuller

5. Because your clients will come back

by Missy Mayo

I took “Capturing Joy” this past summer and it was a true game changer for my photography approach. I had an “a-ha” moment (well, many) when I realized how drawn I was to images that reflected true JOY and emotion.

As a mom, I have often thought to myself, “I wish this memory with my children were captured as beautifully as it feels. I wish this joy and love could be seen in a tangible way, not just in my heart.” My clients want this too. They hire me to record the sound of their child’s bubbling laughter, the tight squeeze of hug, and the whisper of “I love you” from their spouse.

My job is to convey all of this through an image. The key is to bring a positive and upbeat energy to our session. I set the tone for a non-stressful session – whether it is by reassuring mom if her child (or husband!) acts up or by having a “go with the flow” attitude when plans change.

Once my clients see that the pressure is removed, we are free to play, laugh, and have fun – and all the while I am capturing their joy. The result is not only a gallery of images filled with laughter, but also a happy customer experience… Which makes them want to come back!

toddler smiling and laughing picture by Missy Mayo
photo by Missy Mayo
kids running in a field and laughing photo by Missy Mayo
photo by Missy Mayo