Methods for Adding Mood to Your Photos

By ammirare | June, 26, 2012 | 0 comments

With today’s modern digital cameras, it’s easy to take a well-exposed photo. But how do you take it a step further and capture an image that encompasses the mood you felt at the time? In this tutorial I’m going to explore some techniques you can use to inject mood and emotion into your photographs.

 

There are several methods you can use to express the feelings that a scene evoked in you. They all involve creative input from the photographer – by exploring these techniques you will stop ‘taking’ photos and start ‘making’ them instead.

It all starts with being selective about what you photograph. Just because you can take a photo doesn’t mean you should. Good photographers are selective about what they photograph. You should be too – your photos will improve.

For example, if you find a beautiful location that you want to photograph, but you happen to be there at midday, you know the light isn’t at its best. Coming back in the late afternoon or early morning – when the sun is low in the sky and there is a beautiful, raking light illuminating the scene – will really improve your photo.

This one technique alone will dramatically improve your photos. But most photographers know this already – so here are some more ideas for you to explore.

Use a Wide Aperture

Try using the widest aperture on your lens. If you use zoom lenses, this will be between f2.8 and f5.6. This technique works best with standard and telephoto lenses because these lenses have less depth-of-field.

The idea is to focus sharply on your subject and throw the background out of focus. This is a technique used in portraiture – focus on the subject’s eyes and use a wide aperture so that part of the face and the background is out of focus.

The out of focus background is moody because we can’t see what it’s supposed to be. We have to use our imagination to fill in the gaps. The technique works best when the background is darker than the subject – shadows are moodier than bright highlights.

Shoot in Low Light

Try shooting when the light is low. Low light is moody and evocative. If you’re shooting static subjects like landscapes you can put your camera on a tripod and use a cable release to avoid camera shake.

If you’re shooting something that moves, like people, you’ll need to use a high ISO and a wide aperture to get a shutter speed fast enough to avoid camera shake. Don’t be afraid of high ISOs – noise can add mood to your photos, just like grain did when people used film.

In low light you can also use slower shutter speeds to introduce blur into your photos. It’s another way of creating a moody image. 

Adjust Your Colour Temperature

Shoot in RAW and adjust the colour temperature in post-processing. This means you can decide the optimum colour temperature afterwards and don’t have to worry about setting it correctly in camera.

It also gives you another significant advantage – you can make more than one interpretation of an image. Your RAW file is just a starting point, much like a negative in the hands of a skilled black and white darkroom printer.

Shoot Into the Light

Backlighting is a dramatic and moody type of lighting. It works because the exposure range is outside what your camera can handle. There are several approaches – you can expose for the light source (normally the sun in the sky, but it could be a flash in a studio or a window indoors) and if the light source is strong whatever is in the foreground will be silhouetted or semi-silhouetted.

Another approach is to expose for the foreground, and the background will be overexposed. Two different techniques, two different types of mood.

A third approach is to shoot a backlit portrait and use flash to light your subject from the front or side. This technique is used when you don’t want to overexpose the background too much and still show detail in your subject’s face.

For moody photos, avoid HDR techniques in backlit situations. You create mood when there are details in the photo that get filled in by the viewer’s imagination. HDR photos provide all the detail, and leave nothing to the imagination.

Shoot Into the Light

Backlighting is a dramatic and moody type of lighting. It works because the exposure range is outside what your camera can handle. There are several approaches – you can expose for the light source (normally the sun in the sky, but it could be a flash in a studio or a window indoors) and if the light source is strong whatever is in the foreground will be silhouetted or semi-silhouetted.

Another approach is to expose for the foreground, and the background will be overexposed. Two different techniques, two different types of mood.

A third approach is to shoot a backlit portrait and use flash to light your subject from the front or side. This technique is used when you don’t want to overexpose the background too much and still show detail in your subject’s face.

For moody photos, avoid HDR techniques in backlit situations. You create mood when there are details in the photo that get filled in by the viewer’s imagination. HDR photos provide all the detail, and leave nothing to the imagination.

Use a Long Exposure

I’m talking a really long exposure – two seconds or more. This is a technique for landscape photos. Make sure the camera is on a sturdy tripod and use a cable release and mirror lock-up to avoid camera shake. If it’s windy, stand between your camera and the wind.

Long exposures work best when there is something in the photo that is moving, such as the sea, water in a waterfall or grass blowing in the wind. The moving elements are contrasted against the still elements of the scene. You combine this technique with shooting in low light and shooting at or just after sunset.

It’s also effective in urban landscapes taken in the evening with cars moving through the picture. The lights from the cars leave trails. Take this kind of photos when there is still some light in the sky so that the sky retains some colour – it will come out dark blue rather than black.

Add Textures

Adding textures is a good technique for creating moody photos. You can combine this with converting to black and white and toning. Like converting to black and white, it’s essential that you start off with a photo that’s already moody. The aim is to go as far as you can and see just how moody you can make your photo.

Use this technique selectively. It doesn’t suit every photo, and if you add textures to all your photos it soon becomes boring. Ideal subjects are portraits, nude studies, still lifes and some landscapes.

How do you add textures to your photos? You’ll need Photoshop, or another editing program that supports layers. You simply paste the texture as a new layer over the original photos, and then adjust the opacity and layer blending modes to get the effect you want.

 

 

Information from  Andrew S Gibson Blog : Writer & Fine Art  Photographer

http://www.andrewsgibson.com/blog/

Photo from Ekaterina Utimisova

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