Tips on adding Mood, Emotion, or Feeling in our photography

Lady With Flowers, Perguia, Italy, Published in Brochure & other places. Bob Grytten Image
Lady With Flowers, Perugia, Italy, Published in Brochure & other places. Bob Grytten Image

Memorable images begin with first understanding Graphic tugs at the heart.

In this image, Lady with Flowers, a number of things are going on. For openers, the simple rule of thirds is expanded to include two quadrants – the face and the flowers. Design elements on the marble wall also help direct the eye toward an area in the image.

And, of course, what I think is the most compelling factor, the lady’s sweet smile and direct look, her eyes.

The shoot went  like this. We were in Perugia, Italy and from across the square I saw this figure. I took a grab shot, then went over to her and asked in Italian, if I could take her picture. She said, “Yes.” I raised the camera and fired.

Obviously, in the moment it took to shoot this image, I wasn’t thinking about all the graphic factors mentioned above. Either they were already inside my mind’s eye or it was just coincidence how everything came together. Essentially, the picture looked right, so I released the shutter. That’s the bottom line.

So, the process goes like this. We read as much as we can about the composition/graphics, take as many classes as we can on the subject, then practice. Practice is the key, if one wants to get to the place where Mood, Emotion, etc plays a factor.

But, we practice the things that work, as best we can, then go from there. It helps if a person is motivated, has a purpose. Then we stay at it.

The key is internalizing the stuff. “Practiced Intuition” it was described. Once it becomes part of us, the fine points can take hold.

Mushroom Orig
Mushroom Original

Yesterday in Cataloochee Valley, after the elk had gone in we took a stroll. We had nothing in particular in mind to shoot, as is often the case. It was about 7:30 AM and the light was yet to come into the forest floor. This image is what the scene was like; however, it felt much more quiet, serene.

Mushroom cleaned up
Mushroom cleaned up

The images I settled on more closely reflected the sense of place I felt.

One of the aspects of an image with emotion, mood or feeling is that it seldom requires any caption.

The amount of under exposure helps reduce the distracting leaves to and accentuates the shadows. Made with a long lens. If the lens does not allow close focus on it’s own, either an extension tube or close up diopter may help. Settings were Aperture Priority, f/8, 1/320 sec, -2.0 EV

Mushroom side of treeThis next image seemed to almost speak. “Here I am, by myself. Look at me hanging on…”

The image stands out as it is back lit and the background defused and the fungi higher in the frame. It provides a sense of place. Made with a long lens to isolate the subject, moved close for the background to fall away.

Another possible image appeared on our way walking back …

Snail - aloneA subtle shaft of ambient light was showcasing this little guy. One can almost feel his aloneness. Made with a long lens although any lens could also work, as long as focus is maintained and subject is placed in a quadrant that is off center.

Rosebay Rhododendron f:6.3, 1/125 sec
Rosebay Rhododendron f:6.3, 1/125 sec

This Rosebay Rhododendron was photographed at Aperture Priority with EV set at -1.0. With Aperture priority  the camera selects the shutter speed to produce proper exposure. Then I used the EV setting to under expose a bit to help the mood I wish to project. On some digital cameras under exposing can create objectionable noise. With my mirrorless camera that is not as much of an issue.

Forest light
Forest light

When it comes to landscapes, creating a slight light down the road helps to draw they eye and creates a place one might want to be. Using a vertical lens and tipping the top of the lens forward allows foreground detail to invite the viewer into the scene. The slight edge of the ferns on the right side softens the image a bit suggesting where we are. “S” curves are another soothing element we can incorporate to help the feel of the image.

For the viewer this composition could be anywhere. The key with our photography is to design it to emit a feeling, mood or emotion in the viewer. If someone says or feels that they want to be there, we’ve succeeded.

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