How To Create Mood In Your Photography

Add drama, impact and feeling to your photos based on the light or conditions

For numerous years, I’ve been writing the Tip of the Week for outdoorphotographer.com. Each session starts with me in front of my monitor to come up with a fresh new topic. For some, I write about a specific technique. For others, I provide hints on topics such as light, backgrounds, editing before pressing the shutter, exhausting all possibilities, and more.

For this week, my Pages document on my monitor sadly remained blank. I found this frustrating as there’s always been something that pops into my head to provide motivation. I persisted, pondered and continued to deeply speculate. Tabula rasa—maybe a play on words. Tabula rasa—maybe a new and improved tutorial on depth of field. Tabula rasa—the more deeply I self-deliberated and mulled it over, there was nada! This put me in a disheartened mood. OMG—there’s this week’s topic: Mood. This put me in a good mood!

In thinking about how to create mood in your photography, my mind branched out in a myriad of ways. People experience different moods, your pets have moods and, as we all know, teenagers definitely have moods. In regard to our photography, weather has moods, special effects can create a mood, the way a photo is lit dictates mood and atmospherics can provide mood. The mood of a photo can be peaceful, tranquil, ominous, happy, sad and more, all predetermined by one of the above factors.

Food for thought: Psychologically, one’s mood and given disposition on any given day impacts how an image may be captured. On a day when everything is splendid and joyful, a bright, sunny fall-colored mountainside reflected in a still lake may contribute to one’s thinking, that’s a “good mood” photo. Conversely, if it’s a bad day and the last thing a person wants to see is something cheerful, it will be reflected in the way the photo is made.

Use Fog To Create Mood In Your Photography

I absolutely love to shoot in fog. For me, it implies peace, solitude, beauty, stillness and tranquility. When I look through my camera, all anxiety is relieved, I admire the beauty and I pray to the weather gods to keep layer upon layer rolling in. Fog hides clutter that may cause distractions in the background. It provides layers that recede into a wash of color. It creates depth as each layer that nears the camera takes on more and more dominance.

Technically, be sure to monitor your histogram. Fog can vary in tone and color, hence there’s no global advice stating how much compensation to dial in to obtain a correct exposure. Given specific conditions, I’ve gone both plus or minus. Don’t blow out delicate highlights that can appear.

Conversely, when it’s thick and dark, don’t block up the shadows as they’ll reveal grain when you try to open them up. If wildlife appears when there’s fog, use the rule of thirds when you compose the photo. Be sure to balance the placement of the animal with a primary component on the opposite side of the frame.

Riders On The Storm

When a storm is on the cusp, it means one of two things: It’s moving in or moving out. An impending storm is great to photograph, especially when a blast of sun illuminates ominous clouds and/or foregrounds. Monitor the weather to note when a front is supposed to arrive or vacate your area. For the hour before and the hour after each storm, that’s when the drama heats up. For an incoming storm, pick out the clouds that are dark and radiate drama. Find a foreground in the landscape and juxtapose the two. If a shaft of sunlight breaks, be sure to include the sunlight object, but it behooves you to check for blinkies or overexposure in those areas. Dark clouds will inform the meter to open up the exposure, which in turn leaves you with blown out highlights in the shaft of sun. Check that histogram. The same advice applies to storms that depart the area.

Even Clear Weather Can Convey A Mood

Clear weather isn’t often associated with mood, but I present some reasons why it should be. Sunlight provides warmth. Warmth provides comfort. Comfort provides relief. Relief provides satisfaction. Satisfaction provides gratification—you get the idea. Pleasurable concepts allow one to be in a good mood.

With this in mind, I always associate clear sunrises or iconic wildlife or scenery made at sunrise or sunset as having mood. For wildlife, make images with the light hitting your back by pointing your shadow at the subject. Any animal photographed in early or late front light nets a potentially great image. On the other hand, sidelight is what makes a scenic glimmer. Break out the polarizer as the sky will be at the optimum angle for polarization. The blues become bluer and if there’s color, it takes on more saturation.

To keep yourself in a good mood, use the tips above to create mood in your photography.

To learn more about this subject, join me on a photo safari to Tanzania. Visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.

Photography is what motivates me to move through life in a positive way. Photography is ͞All About The Light͟ and it’s the first thing I seek out before I press the shutter. Optimally, I pursue great subjects in great light, but if there’s an ordinary subject in great light, I still press the shutter. I love to share the photographic knowledge I’ve accumulated and I hope my enthusiasm is contagious so I can motivate others to feel the same way I do about my photography.