Quick tips: Comedy moments

February 8, 2017

Photographing amusing expressions or juxtapositions can be challenging because often the moment when everything comes together is short-lived. Also, what makes one person laugh may not appeal to the next. Thankfully, there are some instances that make everyone smile, such as wildlife that seems to exhibit human behaviour and images that play on the idea of contrast (a great dane next to a Chihuahua, for instance).

For maximum impact these pictures need to be simple with an uncluttered composition. Consider Elliott Erwitt’s dog images, where the ‘joke’ is communicated instantly. Erwitt once said: ‘The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words.’ Similarly if you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny.

  1. Amusing moments are often fleeting, so try to anticipate when they might occur. Watch toddlers at a wedding or sit outside an antiques shop and wait for someone to leave with an odd or amusing purchase.
  2. Make sure your camera is ready for action. Keep it switched on, select shutter priority, opt for a continuous-release mode and don’t be afraid to use auto ISO. Also, check your exposure settings regularly.
  3. Use strategically placed props – animals can have amusing reactions to their own reflection, for example. Visit The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards at for more ideas.
  4. Laughter is contagious, so why not photograph someone mid-chuckle. Look for natural expressions and establish a rapport with your subject. Shoot just as the laughter dies down as this often results in a natural smile.
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