Simple Ways to Explore Mood in Your Photography

A gull and iceberg, in silhouette, against a lovely evening sky on the Ilulissat Icefjord near Ilulissat, Greenland.

There are many ways to explore mood through your photography. This photo of a gull on an iceberg off the coast of Greenland is a case in point. Let's look at it in more detail.

I made the above image with a Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 70-200mm f/4 IS lens while on a midnight cruise on the Ilulissat Icefjord in western Greenland.

The Silhouette

A powerful and evocative silhouette can turn a subject into something far more iconic. No longer is the photo about Rob the runner, its about the runner. The photo has now moved beyond a likeness of the individual in question and become iconic. In certain circumstances it becomes imbued with symbolism and metaphor and moves from a competent photograph into a work of art layered with meaning. 

Silhouettes often affect mood by adding an end of day feel to the image. Silhouettes speak quietly and suggest a contemplative viewer response. Think of a pregnant mother photographed, side on to the camera, in silhouette. The image is no longer about the individual photographed. It now speaks to us about universal themes such as pregnancy, motherhood, nature and life.  

A sheep calmly grazes as a magnificent sunset sinks below the horizon on the Látrabjarg Cliffs in the western most part of Iceland.

Light and Color Effect Mood

Warm light elicits feelings of romance and helps us explore the picturesque in our photography. Alternatively, cool colors often elicit feelings associated with tranquility, serenity and calm.

Similarly light tones might be seen to be more uplifting, while dark tones might be considered more brooding. Contrasting light and dark tones, within the same composition, tends to enhance each individual tone and the emotions associated with them.

The warm color palette evident in this image of a sheep grazing on the Látrabjarg Cliffs in western Iceland produces a very romantic, pictorial image. I'd have to say it was an incredible place and time to be making photographs under such a radiant light. While the image features a sheep in the near foreground, it's really an image about light and color, and about the nature of things.

Just remember what you exclude from the frame is as important as what you include. Also remember that colors, light and the inclusion of a very dark subject against a much brighter background (i.e., silhouette) are powerful tools that help us tell our story successfully.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru