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Creating Moods with Photographs
Mood photography does just what the name implies: it sets the mood for the piece. It makes you evoke happiness, sadness or wonder. If you are interested in this photography, then you should study the works of famous mood photographers. Studying these photographers will give you ideas, which you can use as a starting board for your own photography.
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Steven Meisel is one of the most famous mood photographers. He is a fashion photographer, having created pieces for Conde Nast, Vogue and W magazines. Generally, his pieces are very elaborate with full-fledged scenes and intricate costumes. In many of the photographs, the model is not even looking at the camera. Oftentimes, it seems as if the model is looking for something, causing wonder in the viewer.
Other photographs involve action scenes, including a tough girl arm wrestling a heavily-muscled man. Another involves a girl looking up at a cop as a dog barks at her. You are meant to interpret what is going on, drawing the viewer into the scene.
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Almost the exact opposite of Steven Meisel is Dorothea Lange; the only thing that they have in common is that they both photographed people. While Meisel set up the scenes, Lange had to wait for the mood to present itself. She was a photographer during the Great Depression. She traveled around the country, capturing people being people.
Her most famous portrait (Migrant Mother) shows a woman surrounded by two small children with their faced turned away from the camera. The woman has her hand on her face, and that face is lined with worry. The immediate reaction to this image is that she is in some sort of trouble and needs help. Lange was a master of capturing both people’s joy and sadness.
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Besides people, you can also use landscapes to create mo ods. This may actually be harder than just taking pictures of people. The expressions on people’s faces help you figure out their mood. In landscapes, on the other hand, you only have the scene and maybe some post-production work to create a mood.
Ansel Adams was a master of creating moods from simple landscape scenes. Adams was a fierce environmentalist whose works seemingly only had one goal: show the majesty of these landscapes so we don’t forget that to lose them would be a tragedy. All of Adams photographs were in black and white, which added greater depth to the images.
For example, Moonrise, Hernandez shows a small village against a long stretch of prairie, and this prairie terminates at the mountains in the far background. This photograph makes you not only feel the desolation of this place, but also the majesty of the mountains in the background.
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Eddie Adams was a photojournalist, most famous for his coverage of the Vietnam War. While a photojournalist is responsible for just capturing things as they happen, Adams learned that you must show the emotion of the war for it to have a real impact. He showed the despair of soldiers, or the happiness of people like Mother Theresa welcoming a baby into this world.
While he was charged with just photographing the war, Adams took it to another level and brought the war home for many people. He showed the rawness and terror associated with any war.
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Learning From Others
Mood photography is all about creating an emotion. Think about your images and what you want to say through that image before you take your picture. And, study these great photographers for inspiration.
First, try actually copying the photographer, and then try to do your own take. For example, if you take the picture of Moonrise, Hernandez, you may see something else besides expanse and a feeling of desparation. You may focus on the town itself and show people loving their isolation and closeness.