A huge benefit of my being a photographer is I get asked to judge at local camera clubs. This is a benefit in that I love to view gorgeous photos. I also love to help beginners improve their craft. When I make comments about their photos, I try to give as much constructive criticism as possible how to improve their captures. Quite often a club may have an assigned topic for the competition. Sometimes the topic is very specific and occasionally it's open-ended. This fact provided the motivation for this week's tip. I started to think about words that could make a great photo theme. I wanted one that was open-ended, but still easy to come by. The word I settled on was mood.
When I thought of the word mood, the first thought that entered my mind was raising my son through his teenage years. If you've raised a teenager, you know what I mean. But how could I portray this in a photo? I continued the search in my mind, targeting the concept and then realized mood goes much farther than my initial thought. There are the moods all people may experience. Your pets have moods. Weather has moods. Special effects can create a mood, or a mood can originate from the way a photo is lit. As I continued to add to the list, I realized just how many photo ideas I came up with and that put me in a good mood. Hence, the writing of this tip.
People's mood: Perhaps the easiest way to capture mood is to photograph people. It can be real emotion or staged. If it is staged, be sure the mood of the light is befitting the mood the subject portrays. If you want to capture a pensive moment, create a spotlight and position the person in the highlight with a contemplative expression. If it's happiness you want to depict, work in a brightly lit setting that has even light. Shoot with a long lens at its widest aperture. Move the subject away from the background, so he or she becomes the only plane in focus. Wait for the moment when the eyes, mouth, and body language convey the mood you desire.
Weather's mood: A bright and sunny day may put you in a good mood, but it's not the type of weather that is consistent with photos that convey mood. Moody images are those that contain fog, dramatic light, spotlit effects, or are made in low-light situations. They show emotion based on atmospheric conditions. They're often made in weather conditions that are not ideal, so be sure to keep your gear protected. Dramatic light doesn't last long, so act quickly. Fog often lingers, but may recede as fast as it wafts in. Be sure to check your histogram when you shoot in fog as it's easy to underexpose.
In choosing images to illustrate this week's tip, I wanted each to portray a different concept. I did this both as a challenge and for the sake of diversity and example. The first image proved to be the easy one. I allowed my son to play with the garden hose with the agreement he can't spray dad because he has his camera. In that he never used a handheld nozzle, I waited for his moment of discovery. I love the mood of the photo from both an emotional and photographic level. The image of the foggy coast exudes mood because of the weather conditions. It proves that sunny and fair weather doesn't always provide the best conditions to shoot images conveying mood. I chose the last image to provide food for thought. Black-and-white images, by their nature radiates mood as it strips color away from all subjects. This forces the viewer to become a more critical audience and puts them in touch with why you pressed the shutter—albeit, the mood.