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How To Photograph Solitude & Emotion

Updated on July 19, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years. Hope you enjoy my hubs!

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Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source
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Photography can be practiced anywhere and almost anything can be photographed. The list of subjects whose photos can be taken is endless. Color, shapes, form, emotions and even feelings can be represented in photographs.

Noting says love more than a photo of a tender kiss, an embrace. Anger can be shown by facial features , acts and gestures, solitude can also be represented by a lonely person, a desolate space and empty room.

One of the many photographic projects that are quite simple to undertake is to show a feeling of solitude in photographs. The best locations are abandoned buildings, deserted streets, warehouses and empty rooms. The key is to find these places and set up your gear to capture the expanses of it.

Lighting should be carefully arranged so as to give a muted sense to the shot. Too much light and the sense of solitude is erased. Too little light and all you end up with is darkness. Use shadows to your advantage, portraying an image that is enveloped in shadows adds mystery to the shot, just make sure to allow the subject to be visible within the shadows, don't let shadows overwhelm it.

You should balance the light to obtain a midway between lightness and darkness. If the location is littered with debris or clutter, do not rearrange it or clean it, these elements only add to the sense, and can by their presence evoke other feelings. Sometimes a vast empty space simply by its amplitude is enough to evoke a solitary emotion.

Avoid locations that have too many windows, mirrors or too many open areas, since controlling the light here can prove to be difficult. If the area has stairs or old furniture do by all means include them in the shot. Factories that have old equipment or fixtures inside can be very appealing in portraying a sense of solitude.

Their rusted, dirty and often broken pieces and appendages can evoke strong feelings of emptiness and abandonment. Solitude is probably one of the hardest emotions to capture on film but well worth it is done right.

Most cities have plenty of abandoned places, but you should always try to obtain permission from the owners when photographing them. Often you will be denied permission simply because of insurance regulations, but with persistence and a clear explanation as to your intentions, most owners will grant you access.

City owned properties are another matter. Most municipalities will shun your request due to the possibility of portraying them in a "bad light" Again, with a clear explanation and persistence most often than not they will grant you entrance. You might have to obtain temporary liability insurance and sign a waiver, but the cost of this is minimal in most instances.

What holds true for enclosed spaces is not always the same for vast expanses. Photographs of landscapes can be used to show solitude. Find areas that are devoid of plant life, especially flowers or trees and photograph them during the dusk hours. Black & white film works very well for these shots as an absence of color only adds to the general feeling of emptiness.

People can be the center of a solitude shot. A lonely person surrounded by couples or others who seems withdrawn exemplify solitude. An empty chair in an empty room works well too. Abandoned ships, boats, desolate piers, a tree devoid of leaves are all good subjects. The portrait of a person's face works if the person has a look that seems devoid of feelings, just staring at nothing with a blank expression on their face.

Black & white film is exceptionally suited for these types of shots. Color leads the eye to where it is in a photo, but isolating a color among an otherwise stark scene heightens the sense of solitude, don't overlook using color if it serves your purpose, but avoid many colors, just concentrate on isolating one.

Shots where fog is apparent not only enhances the solitary atmosphere but adds an air of mystery to the photograph as well, like snow adds coldness to the general scene.

Can you make a living out of this type of photography? Like many other photo genres these photographs are good to display as works of art in galleries and for general photography publications.

Scout the area before beginning your photo session to get an idea of what it is that will make the most impact and take several shots in different angle to ensure that an acceptable image will be recorded. It is also advisable to bring someone else to the shoot to add another perspective and too ensure that at least one of you will capture a good photo. Plus it is easier if two share the work of ferrying equipment to and fro the location. | Source

Have fun with your photography, be careful when entering abandoned locations as most are structurally deteriorated. Seek permission if possible. If you suffer an accident there is no one who would be held responsible but yourself.

Take at least one flash unit and a couple of lenses as well as a tripod. A regular 50mm lens plus a wide angle are often enough. Try shooting in color and in black & white. Let someone know of your intentions in the event that something happens and you do not return at the appointed time.

Be aware that some abandoned buildings are often occupied by those less fortunate and all of your equipment makes for an easy buck. If you find occupants where you intend to shoot it is advisable to befriend them as they can point you to the best places as well as warn you of any potential dangers.


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Public Domain | Source

© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      ShonEjai:Thank you

    • ShonEjai profile image


      6 years ago from California

      very inspiring post. nice photo examples.

    • Wonder Referrals profile image

      Wonder Referrals 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      I really enjoyed this hub and the photos...

    • thebluestar profile image

      Annette Donaldson 

      7 years ago from Northern Ireland

      Very informative and beautifully written. I stand in awe of the photos, pictures never lie. Well done.

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks so much.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      7 years ago from Sweden

      Thanks for this great inspiration in the art of photography! Beautiful pictures.


    • H P Roychoudhury profile image

      H P Roychoudhury 

      7 years ago from Guwahati, India

      I must congratulate you for encouraging in the evolution of the language of photography, an art of expression easily accessible to all human beings of the world without the knowledge of any letter of language.

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 

      7 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      I love lonely, quiet places. Thanks for the inspiration.


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