Who doesn’t love a clever meme? Discover insight from pro photographers as they share how they created and captured their favorite hilarious photos.
Photographers have always had a sense of humor, but there’s no denying that the internet has elevated the “funny photo” into an art form all its own. Whether it’s viral ad campaigns or hilarious memes, some of this generation’s most effective images are also the ones that make us laugh.
Humorous photo shoots are also great—and perhaps underestimated—creative outlets for artists. “Making funny photos is one way I relax outside of my more commercial work,” Brooklyn-based photographer and Offset Artist Laura Thompson tells us. “It allows me to play with my camera and equipment in a more casual setting. I want to be able to make anyone laugh.” Often, her friends even send her memes they’ve made using her photos.
We asked some photographers to tell us their best tips for tapping into their sense of humor—and using it to create stock photos that stand out to buyers. Keep in mind that these photographers couldn’t be more different. Some are studio photographers, others are documentary photographers, and a few fall somewhere in-between. However, they share one common trait that sets them apart, and that’s an abiding love of all things playful and quirky.
Photo by Laura Thompson
Pro Tip #1: Keep your ideas simple.
“The best ideas are the simple ones, in my opinion,” Thompson says. “Wordplay is one of my favorite types of humor, and I think of my work as easy-to-digest in the same way that puns are. In this case, I wanted to put my own spin on all the engagement ring photos I was seeing in my social media feeds around the holidays. A picture came up in my newsfeed as I was passing an Arby’s, so I grabbed some curly fries on the way home.
“I immediately took the picture as soon as I got there. It was a quick idea I had shot once, years ago, but this time it felt like the perfect set of circumstances with the right lighting, manicure, and comedic timing for posting online during the holiday season. Coincidently, I was also working on a mini-series of funny potato photos at the time, so it tied in perfectly.”
Image by Nicole Mlakar
Pro Tip #2: Document the “little moments.”
“Being aware and really paying close attention to the little moments is what will produce a fun image,” Austin-based photographer Nicole Mlakar advises. “You have to be ready, meaning both mentally, physically, and gear-wise. You’re trying to capture something spontaneous, so you can’t be messing around with your gear or disengaged with your subject. In the case of this image, was photographing a ‘day-in-the-life’ kind of documentary shoot of this adorable Griffon, named Gabbie.”
Image by Jeroen Paling
Pro Tip #3: Give your friends and family an assignment they’ll enjoy.
“Humor in my images is something I look for, not something I create,” Amsterdam-based photographer Jeroen Paling tells us. “My approach is semi-documentary, though I occasionally help set the stage for things to happen. For example, with this photo, I asked my daughter if she could sing me a Pink song she likes. I asked her to sing it on a microphone, as loud as she could. We upped the noise level, added makeup and cool clothes, and had a lot of fun.”
Photo by Katho Menden
Pro Tip #4: Be patient.
“I’ve been taking pictures of animals for many years, and my hope is that my photos encourage people to take better care of them,” German photographer Katho Menden explains. “Capturing these unrepeatable moments always takes time, especially with animals, and their happiness is my priority.
“Even if you don’t get a perfect ‘funny picture’ right away, be patient, and keep trying. You can’t set out to capture a hilarious image. The only thing you have to do is wait. I’ve spent hours waiting for the right witty and heartwarming moment.
“I made this photo during a trip to Lesvos in Greece. I saw this cat outside this blue wooden window, and she clearly wanted some affection. I petted her, took some photos, and spoke to her, and suddenly one of her kittens peered out of the window. I kept talking to the mother cat, when, all at once, a second curious baby appeared!”
Photo by Dmytro Gilitukha
Pro Tip #5: Collaborate with a team.
“I love when I’m able to realize a fun idea that my models want to share on their social networks,” Ukrainian photographer Dmytro Gilitukha tells us. “Many of these ideas actually come from the model. I never rush or hurry them or ask them to get into the ‘right’ poses. Sometimes, I just ask how they’d like to see themselves on Instagram. This usually generates lots of funny ideas, as it did with this photo.”
Image by Olga Niekrasova
Pro Tip #6: Carry a notebook.
“The more funny ideas you can collect, the more options you have to choose from when embarking on new projects,” still life photographer and stop motion artist Olga Niekrasova says. “Keep a notebook as part of your everyday life. Use it to take notes, develop ideas, and prepare for every shoot. If you’re a studio photographer, I recommend assembling all sorts of references, notes, or sketches in your notebook. Don’t be afraid to experiment if new, interesting ideas come to mind during the process.”
Image by Kelsea Fehlen
Pro Tip #7: Relinquish control.
“When shooting within the realm of the quirky and comical, it’s key to be open to everything,” Minnesota photographer Kelsea Fehlen says. “Humor is not a neat little box, and it’s not something that can be forced. I find my strongest images result from my allowing events to unfold organically. It’s about relinquishing control and allowing room for the story and subjects to naturally come together. After that, it comes down to interpreting what you see through the filter of what makes you genuinely smile.
“In the case of this photo, my family and I were riding on a vintage bus en route to a ‘Halloween Express’ train ride, when my parents surprised my two sons with a couple of fun animal noses that they had purchased for them while on a recent trip. Naturally, my sons immediately tried on the noses, and being the thick-as-thieves brothers that they are, they were already seated together in their own seat. They were in their own little corner of the world, which, combined with the quirkiness of the noses, created a sense of comical mystery and timeless adventure.”
Photo by Whitney Ulven
Pro Tip #8: Photograph what makes you laugh.
Each of the photographers featured in this story has a unique sense of humor, different from any of the others. Find yours, and develop it. “Nine times out of ten, if something makes you laugh or puts a smile on your face, it will invoke the same reaction in someone else,” Oregon photographer Whitney Ulven suggests.
“Don’t overthink it. Just capture what makes you smile, and take lots of photos, often. There aren’t any sound effects or stories being told to go along with an image; it is simply sparking someone’s sense of humor at first glance. Bottom line: you need to have a sense of humor to trigger someone else’s sense of humor.”
Image by Aleksey Boyko
Pro Tip #9: Have fun!
This one might seem obvious, but it’s too often overlooked. Ukrainian photographer Aleksey Boyko regularly works with his dog Patti, a Staffordshire Terrier mix with floppy ears—and he always ensures their sessions are a blast. “A major part of getting a funny photo of Patti is ensuring it’s a playful experience for both of us,” he tells us. “ I spend 90% of my life with my dog, so I’m very familiar with her personality.
“Patti is a real pro at chewing and destroying homeware and shoes, so instead of getting angry at her, I decided to show it in a humorous way and share the experience with the world. In this photo, she’s not actually destroying the fluffy toy; she’d done it a few days earlier, but I recreated the scene using the torn pieces. Some time ago, my wife actually created an Instagram account for Patti: @pattydestroy.”
Top Image by Aleksey Boyko.
Want more tips for shooting authentic and funny photos? Check these out.
- A Behind-the-Scenes Look into the Sweet and Funny Life of a Family Photographer
- 9 Tips on Capturing Authentic Stock Images of People Smiling
- Advertising and Humor: Your New Secret Marketing Weapon
- 12 Tips for Taking Authentic Videos of People Having Fun
- The Most Hilarious Images of Pets on the Internet Right Now