Do You Know What “Peaceful” Looks Like?

by | Jan 22, 2021 | Perspective, Tips & Tricks | 1 comment

Hey everyone, want to see some photos that are practically guaranteed to make you feel peaceful? What about some photos that are sure to make you cringe or go bouncing off the walls?!

I had so much fun conducting this survey this month! I asked a random assortment of folks to indicate whether or not they would describe each photo in a list of 38 as “Yes”, it feels peaceful, or “No”, it does not feel peaceful. There’s a lot, I believe, that we can glean from analyzing the responses.

Rated At 100%

Of the 38 photos in the survey, only three received the highest rating possible: 100%, where every single one of the 40 random survey responders said that they would describe the photo as peaceful.

Here’s one of them. Heart Lake, California, at twilight:

Best View in California (Vertical)See where this photo was taken:

Survey responders also described it as “majestic” and “serene”.

And here’s the second one with a rating of 100%. Another beautiful lake, this one in the Northwoods of Michigan:

110910_James Staddon_4334 Canon EOS 40D, 23 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 400

The third photo, mentioned in an earlier blog post and, interestingly, is of another lake at sunset, also received a rating of 100% (after an invalid response that indicated both “Yes” and “No” was removed). Reflections Lake, Alaska:

140817_James Staddon_0111 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 23 mm, 1-40 sec at f - 11, ISO 100See where this photo was taken:

Rated Almost 100%

Of the 38 photos, there were four that came very close to 100%.

This photo, sunrise over the Atlantic coast at Bethel Beach, Virginia, received a 97.5% score:

191107_James Staddon_3173 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 16 mm, 1-8 sec at f - 16, ISO 50See where this photo was taken:

For the following two photos, the rating was at 95%, described as peaceful by all but two people per photo:

140710_James Staddon_2 Canon EOS 40D, 24 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 400See where this photo was taken:

I went on an expedition with David up to Greenbrier Road seeking fall foliage. This lake on Buffalo Calf Road on the way was pretty nice. Looking for reflections.

And then this photo, sunset over the Pacific coast in California, received a 94.9% score. And that’s mainly because I’m the only one who responded “No” in the survey! One other responder checked neither “Yes” nor “No” but chose to describe it as “Majestic” instead. But I just think it’s so interesting that I’m practically the only person who thought it looked too bright and energetic to be peaceful. Smile

140705_James Staddon_3198 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 165 mm, 1-400 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

Split 50/50

Opinions were divided pretty evenly on five photos.

With a score of 56.4%, whether or not this photo felt peaceful didn’t seem to be a black and white decision in the minds of the responders:

070308_James Staddon_7567 Canon EOS 20D, 55 mm, 1.3 sec at f - 5.6, ISO 400

While I did not consider this photo of a boardwalk at Mason Neck State Park, Virginia, to elicit peaceful feelings, it was fairly neck and neck among responders, receiving a score of 55.6%:

Boardwalk Through the Marsh (vertical)

Even closer was the following photo, at 51.4%. Other emotions that pushed out “peaceful” were “business”, “lonely”, “patience”, and “rest”:

150723_James Staddon_3412 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 70 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 200

The only truly 50/50 split was over this photo of two docked floatplanes taken near Homer, Alaska. 46.2% said “Yes”, 46.2% said “No”. Those two planes aren’t at odds with each other are they?

130830_James Staddon_2883 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 67 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 100See where this photo was taken:

Another close split was this shot of Oneonta Gorge in Oregon. Though 46.2% of responders said they felt it could be described as peaceful, there were more people who would not describe it as peaceful-feeling:

160426_James Staddon_7520 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 17 mm, 6.0 sec at f - 18, ISO 100See where this photo was taken:

Take a look at the last 5 photos. If you were photogarphing them, and it was your intention to make them look more peaceful, what would  you do?

To read about what I would do, as a professional photographer, to intentionally elicit specific emotions of “peacefulness” in my photos, you can read the Premium Training, How to Create Photos That Have a Peaceful Feeling. There’s a whole science to it! And it’s probably not as hard as you think.


Rated Almost 0%

Now, for the photos that will most likely make you feel anything but peaceful!

A meager 8.1% described this photo, taken along the Franconia Ridge in New Hampshire, as peaceful, making it among the five least peaceful-feeling photos in the survey:

Above Tree Line

These next two got peace-less ratings of 5.1% and 5%, respectively:

110402_James Staddon_2551 Canon EOS 40D, 47 mm, 1.3 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 800

120708_James Staddon_3898 Canon EOS 40D, 85 mm, 1-500 sec at f - 5.0, ISO 320

And only one person said this 2.6%-rated photo looked peaceful to them:

181007_James Staddon_055116 Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-2500 sec at f - 2.8, ISO 100

Rated At 0%

And this was the only photo that received a score of 0%. And rightfully so. The content of a photo plays a major role in the emotions elicited by that photo. As one responder commented, “It feels quiet which is often associated with peace, but [instead, it] feels eerie.”

3 Cyprian_War

When times are tough, would someone looking at your life describe you as 100% peaceful, regardless of what’s going on around you? Great peace have they which love God’s law, and nothing shall offend them. Psalm 119:16

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1 Comment

  1. Lydia-B

    Wow that’s really fun to see those results. Powerful closing thought.


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