Moods. They are part of everything. Animals, people, places, settings, surroundings and other items all help to set feelings. As a photographer, I also like to set the mood in my photos. It can be a variety of aspects in the photo all to tell my story for that photo or group of photos. This is needed from the starting point of scouting a location all the way to the final post edit.
For me, I like to channel my inner Bob Ross, the guy I used to watch on PBS paint his beautiful landscape scenes. If you get the chance, really listen to what he says as he is painting. You will hear him talk about “happy little trees” and “wispy clouds”. He also says why the trees and clouds are that way. He is talking about his feeling and mood for the painting or even the specific little tree in the painting.
To set the mood, I am looking for three main aspects to get my mood and story across: lighting, subject, and surroundings.
Lighting is very important. Bright usually creates a happy feeling, a feeling of excitement, or wonder, depending on the subject. Dark and dreary lighting is great to set the mood to make your audience have a feeling of sadness or dread. Why are scary movies so dark? To keep you on edge of course! I love outdoor lighting to set the mood. You can get fantastic golden colors to pastels mixed with blues as the sun hits the horizon. Morning and evening lighting is much softer than midday to make everything more subdued. For lighting, make sure your white balance is set to the right light so you don’t have a photo that is too blue or too yellow. This can be corrected in post editing but it much easier to work with when it is close to the white balance you want for that feeling. Lighting is also especially important when doing indoor events, portraits, etc. Settings in the camera need to be manipulated more to get the lighting so it is not too dark or too light. Blur can also be an issue because the shutter speed may be slower. For these times, the histogram being in the middle is very important.
The subject is a great way for mood to be expressed. When people are involved in the photo, this is especially noticeable because of expressions we all have. Most of the time, it is very easy to tell with people the mood you want. Animals also have a great way of showing their moods, like dogs cocking their heads or their tongues hanging out the side of their mouths. Inanimate objects are a little more tough. With those, you need help from the background and lighting to get the mood. I really like to photograph flowers bright colors because the colors really give a good feeling. Bridges are also a passion. I have one I photograph often, but in different lighting so I can get the mood I want. Those are just some of the ways subjects help to create moods.
The last aspect of my photos I look for to tie it all together are the surroundings. Surroundings can change a mood very quickly or not capture the look you are going for if they do not have that same feeling. They also enhance that feeling you want by working with the lighting and subject. Sometimes, the surroundings are the subject because they are what is making the mood. Clouds are a surrounding I use all the time to set my moods. This is especially noticeable in my sunrise and sunset photos or my dreary cloudy photos. Clouds just make me feel moody. For landscape photography, which I mostly do with my drones, this is very important since the field of view is much greater from the air. Clouds and other surroundings make everything come together. It is easier to see how it all fits from the air. It makes the surroundings come to life and set your mood. Just play with the camera settings. Take it off of automatic and shoot some manual exposures and apertures too so that they come out lighter or darker from the beginning.
My big three for moods (lighting, subject, and surroundings) help make the photo complete. It will keep the viewer’s eye on the photo longer and help bring back those memories and feelings you felt at the time you snapped the photo. After all, this is why I am a photographer and love photography, to capture those moments and share with everyone.
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