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Using Different Lighting to Create Different Moods

There’s much more to photography than meets the eye. Photography is not simply about pressing the shutter button, but about surveying your surroundings for a variety of elements such as the weather, the background and – perhaps most importantly – the lighting. All of these pre-shoot factors help to set the mood of a photograph, a factor that can make or break your shot– particularly if the subject’s expressions are the opposite to the mood evoked. Here is a five-point guide to achieving the correct mood in your photographs.

The ‘Magic Hour’

Silhouette SunriseAlso known as the ‘Golden Hour’, the ‘Magic Hour’ occurs just before and after sunrise or sunset, and can really heighten the emotions in even the most unanimated of subjects. The golden light cast over subjects can help to create a mystifying yet positive atmosphere in your photographs, whilst shooting silhouettes against this backdrop can create beautifully atmospheric snaps.

The Moody Blues

Just after the ‘Magic hour’, the twilight ‘Blue hour’ takes place. During this hour, the sky is cast in a chilling blue that is perfect for shooting cityscapes and other subjects that produce artificial light. If you’re looking to shoot a city whist evoking a sense of calm and tranquillity in your photography, the ‘Blue Hour’ is the ideal time to press that shutter button.

Embracing the Weather

The best way to promote mood in a photograph is to select a backdrop of weather that matches the mood. If you’re planning a positive shoot that oozes contentedness, you need to look out for hazy summer days. Meanwhile wet stormy days can help to heighten the negativity within unhappy subjects. Nothing says sadness like a cloudy threatening sky, just as nothing says I’m feeling positive more than a sun-drenched background.

Utilise the Colour Palette

Much like the weather, you need to ensure that the colour palette in your shoot really matches the emotion that you’re trying to promote. Warm hues – anything from the colour spectrum in the red/orange/yellow region – can lift pictures into positivity, whilst colours from the blue/grey/black spectrum create a sense of sadness, isolation or vulnerability. Don’t attempt to take a wedding photograph with a dark background – it just won’t work.

Stay in Control

Whilst the weather and its colour palette are beyond your control, a photo editor such as Adobe Photoshop can help you to achieve or enhance the mood that you’re trying to advertise. However you should use this with caution, as there’s only a certain level of post-production that you can use without creating that ‘obviously edited’ appearance. Don’t try and airbrush orange onto a bleak photo in a bid to evoke happiness, but do heighten the intensity levels to add drama to a stormy sky. Whenever you choose to edit, KEEP THE ORIGINAL SHOT – you may wish to edit it again in a different way at a later date.

Whilst we now have more post-shoot tools in our arsenal to enhance our photographs, it doesn’t mean that we should forget our basic photographic skills. Put composition first and assess your surroundings before starting the shoot, as the better you do this, the less work you create for yourself after. Good luck creating mood in your photographs!