A peculiar vocabulary exists that photographers use to describe photos. â€œMoody,â€ â€œbright and happy,â€ â€œcheerful,â€ and once, I even saw â€œbrooding.â€
That the vocabulary exists means that thereâ€™s a certain feeling we get from an image. Looking at some of the words we use to talk about imagery we look at suggests that maybe there is something we can do while weâ€™re making images that creates the emotional effect in our audience. If we can do this, we achieve what we always want every time we click that shutter: to create a memorable, impactful image.
Creating an impact with your image begins with the concept youâ€™re after. Rules aside, what do you want your image to make us feel? Often, the conceptualization is where you can distinguish your images from someone elseâ€™s.
Iâ€™ve written before about creating impact with decisions about color, or by design and composition, or using shadows and light. Iâ€™ve also mentioned what I call subjective exposureâ€”an exposure that is made because thatâ€™s how I feel rather than following a technical process for getting a correct exposure.
Subjective exposures can be creative, and they involve the heart rather than the head.
If I want to give you a sense of winter in a shot, Iâ€™ll use Auto white balance since it produces images that are less warm than say, Cloudy white balance. Then, I might overexpose a lot using exposure compensation in Aperture mode. This is a simple way of creating a high key image, an image that is overexposed but artfully so.
Overexposure can work in a photo. Copyright Aloha Lavina.
Some people will say this is bad because you lose a lot of detail in the shot. But what if that was the effect you wanted? What if you wanted beauty to float in a cloud of nothingness?
Similarly, you could underexpose the heck out of an image for effect.
The Balinese make offerings to spirits daily. For those of us who are not Balinese nor scholars of their culture, seeing the intimate act of communing with spirits that live amongst the trees and flowers of Bali feels like a sort of intrusion. But the Balinese make their offerings because they believe it is part of the balance of life. They really donâ€™t mind the photographer with the telephoto lens, especially if you are far away.
Mood is created with exposure in this image. Copyright Aloha Lavina.
I underexposed the photo to give it the mystery I felt while documenting the offering this woman was making to the spirits. The underexposure cut out the distracting background, and it also accentuated the light that fell on her face as she prayed.
Sometimes, when you let go of the rules that tell you what a good exposure is, you discover something about making images that create impact. You might make photos that donâ€™t look like everyone elseâ€™s.
Now, wouldnâ€™t that be something.
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