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How to Infuse Your Impressionist Images with Mood

30 Aug 2021

How to Infuse Your Impressionist Images with Mood

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Like any form of creative expression, impressionist photography is a means of communicating ideas and feelings in a personal way.

It is remarkable how simple image can possess many subtle qualities. A feeling of depth, distance, form and texture can all be conveyed in a single photograph. Mood is perhaps the most elusive quality which a photographic image can convey.

It’s elusive because it depends upon so many different things. But before we explore that, let’s define what mood is.

Mood is associated with extraordinary photographs. Simply stated mood refers to a state of being or emotion. A photograph that conveys a sense of mood will have an emotional quality or feeling to it, such as serenity, joy, anger or fear.

The subject itself may communicate a strong sense of mood, like a small child playing on the beach, for example. However, an atmospheric subject does not guarantee that an image will convey the same mood. Factors like specific light or a specific technique can enhance or destroy this often indefinable quality.

The subject itself may communicate a strong sense of mood, like a small child playing on the beach

To help you convey mood in your images, you can use a wide range of tools and techniques such as extreme camera angles, different lenses, slow shutter speed, ISO, camera filters or reflectors just to mention few.

For me, irrespective of the qualities that a subject offers in terms of content, strong composition, interesting textures, harmonious colours and so on, the attraction is often heightened by a certain light effect. Light can add the ‘buzz’ factor; it can infuse a subject with a magical quality that is irresistible.

For me, irrespective of the qualities that a subject offers in terms of content, strong composition, interesting textures, harmonious colours and so on, the attraction is often heightened by a certain light effect. Light can add the ‘buzz’ factor; it can infuse a subject with a magical quality that is irresistible.

Light can add the ‘buzz’ factor; it can infuse a subject with a magical quality that is irresistible.

Light helps to establish the tonal range of the image. It would be hard to convey a sombre mood when a scene is lit by bright sunlight with sparkly highlights, just as a lively, happy mood would not be created by subdued shadowy lighting. A high-key image which consists of primarily light tones and pastel colours tends to create soft and romantic mood, like a misty landscape for example. A low-key image in which dark, rich tones and subdued colours predominate will impart a more sombre and serious atmosphere.

Also, factors like the time of day and the weather will largely influence both the light quality and the mood of an image. There is also the challenge of trying to determine the best subject for a particular weather condition. What is it that be rendered in an especially interesting way, and under which atmospheric conditions?

Factors like the time of day and the weather will largely influence both the light quality and the mood of an image.

For example, since fog diffuses light, the best subjects are those that have strong shapes and lines. Low evening sunlight and dark stormy skies make for low-key images with rich tones and colours. They can be enhanced by choosing a viewpoint and framing the picture to emphasise the darker areas of the scene. Shooting into the light also creates this effect, particularly when the image is slightly underexposed.

The romantic and light-hearted quality of a light-toned picture is more likely to be found on days when the sky is overcast or hazy, with a soft indirect light and no deep shadows.

The colour quality of a photograph will also have a significant effect on its mood. Response to colour is obviously something that varies from one photographer to another. However, the starting point is always observation – what we notice about the colour and consequently what we feel are the significant qualities to express in our images. A scene where bright saturated colours like red and yellow predominate will help to impart a lively happy atmosphere; more subdued colours like green, blue and purple tend to produce a more restful and introspective mood, and pale pastel colours give an image a more whimsical quality.

Apart from light and colour, exposure control has a powerful impact on a ​photograph’s mood. Keep in mind that your evaluation of exposure involves your personal taste and opinion. There is no such thing as ‘correct exposure’. It is your ability to interpret and vary the exposure to suit the mood of the image that separates your creative abilities from those of others.

Apart from light and colour, exposure control has a powerful impact on a ​photograph’s mood.

Although it is not easy to communicate feelings and capture the mood in an image, it is nevertheless possible and, when achieved, can be one of the most rewarding photographic experiences. Through increased awareness, careful observation and knowledge of the elements that create a successful photograph infused with mood, you can learn to achieve expressive and effective results consistently.

2 Responses

  1. riki123metz@gmail.com

    Hi Eva,
    Thank you for sending the Impressionist photography newsletter! It was delightful as usual and full of wonderful ideas!
    All the best,
    Riki