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Moody photographs, we all love them, but how can we take them ourselves? I guess first we need to know what mood means, it's a pretty abstract concept after all. The dictionary defines it as “Inducing or suggestive of a particular feeling or state of mind” which would suggest that a moody photo is one that creates a feeling in the viewer.
This can be easier said than done. So what do we need to do to add a feeling of mood to our images?
Thinking About Lighting
Well the best place to start is in the camera with the original shot. The most powerful creator of mood we, as photographers have, is light. By using light that is very different from the average, we can create emotion in our images, a sense of place or time. The beginning and end of the day are a great time for this, called the golden hours, the time just before and after sunrise and sunset often provide us with golden, evocative light that can elevate even the most mundane of subjects. The best “golden hour” shots include dramatic skies, where the mixtures of reds and yellows reflecting from the cloud bases can create stunning images. Look to create silhouettes against the sunrise or sunset, you can use this either to block the sun or to balance the shot.
Just after the second golden hour comes another wonderful time for creating moody images, the “Blue Hour”. This is when the sun has dipped below the horizon and the reds of the sunset have turned to a pre-night dark blue. This is the time for artificial light shots, buildings, streets, traffic, anything that produces artificial light.
You will need to work fast, the inky blueness of the sky does not last long, and getting the right exposure can be challenging. Even more challenging is getting the right color balance, in this situation, RAW is your friend as it allows you to set the color balance in the post production. Using a long exposure during in the Blue Hour will allow you to get those atmospheric car light trails across your image, adding depth and color.