Creating Mood in Photography

17 10 2010

The night will come.., originally uploaded by DinBrasco.

Over time the art of photography has changed greatly, from the Kodak Brownie to the Canon Digital series. But one thing has not changed, and that is the creativity that can be achieved.
But what separates a good photograph from a great one? Technical skill is certainly important but is by no means the determining criteria. A technically superb photograph can be emotionless and flat if care is not taken. In fact, the number one determining factor for a great photograph is mood; the emotion conveyed in one image can, and should speak to the viewer and portray what the photographer was feeling in the moment that the image was taken.

But how does one capture emotion in a photograph? What is emotion or mood? Emotion in photography is thoughts, feelings, and ideas conveyed in a split second (the instant the photo was taken) that elicit the same or similar thoughts, feelings or ideas from the viewer. Sound complicated? In some ways it is, in others it is just a matter of common sense. This article will give several suggestions and techniques to better improve the emotion of your photographs.

The first step to improving the mood of your photographs is to simply stop and look around you. What do you see? Are there people moving quickly around you? Anyone sitting still? What demeanor does that person have? Is he smiling, frowning, or watching the sunset? All of these emotions can be captured on film, and can portray entirely different moods. Different expressions, varying angles, and different viewpoints can help to achieve emotion in images.

Another effective tool for achieving mood or tone of a photograph is the use of color. Bright contrasting colors give a sharp, hard hitting mood, while soft muted colors can give a sad, nostalgic or even romantic tone.

Another way to invoke emotion is through the use of Black and white photography. Black and white is perhaps the most creative medium available in photography. It can be used to convey many tones; classy, timeless, modern, and poignant are only a few. An image shot in color might appear to be a completely different image when shot in black and white.

Another way to infuse a photograph with emotion is to pay attention to the lighting conditions. A photograph taken in low light will present a much softer, more muted tone than one taken in the midday sun. The same
principle holds true for overcast skies and low lighting indoors. Another aspect of lighting is to watch for shadows. The shadows cast during midday will be different than those of the morning or early evening.

Different types of filters can be used to convey various tones or moods as well. A diffuser filter can be used to soften edges on images, giving a romantic tone. A polarizer can make color saturation appear deeper, and colored filters used with Black and white film can make overcast skies look quite sinister. There are many different filters on the market ranging from magnifying to every color of the rainbow. There is even one that has a rainbow on it so you can add a rainbow to your landscapes.

Technical skill is certainly important, and as more and more sophisticated equipment becomes available on the market it will continue to be an important part of photography. But infusing your photographs with emotion will make your photographs all the more unique and you’ll be able to take greater pride knowing that you captured that elusive shot, that special photograph that no one else has.

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