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Quick Photo Tip: Don’t Underexpose to be Moody

pearl of wisdom

I have found that in my online class with the BPSOP, and also in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around our planet, so many people think that to create a mood, especially one that pulls at the proverbial “heart strings”, while drawing out an emotional response, you have to underexpose your photos. I mean underexpose to the extent that the viewer has no idea what he’s looking at. My fellow photographers also will try to underexpose a scene that was taken at a time of day where there is no possibility of created the kind of mood they want…as in high noon!!!!!

My answer is always the same, and fairly simple. If you’re trying to take a picture and your message to the viewer is dark and moody, then start out with something that’s already dark and moody and occurring naturally in nature. Or, at least a good start and adding ancillary lighting to finish the job.

Ok, you can’t expect to find this happening outdoors naturally if you go out after breakfast…say mid-morning. You also can’t expect to see this if you go out after an afternoon nap and before dinner. If those are the only times you can shoot, for one reason or another, then go indoors where it will be easier to create a mood. This is also a good idea if it’s overcast outdoors…I don’t mean stormy, stormy is good. I mean a midday gray overcast sky.

If you can go out early or late, then it’s going to be a lot easier to pull on those heartstrings and create a photo that’s moody. Look for areas in shadow with little or no ambient light coming in. Or better yet, look for those dark areas that has a little natural light coming in from somewhere out of the frame and hitting your subject.

If you expose for the brightest part of the composition, as in the light falling on your subject, then everything else will be darker and the mood will be forthcoming.

Having said this, if you want a piece of advice don’t rely on the meter in your camera to help; because it won’t. Shoot on manual because the meter doesn’t know that you’re going for a mood. It will read the area in shadow and try to give you some detail in said shadows. If and when that happens, you can kiss the mood goodbye.

Shoot on manual (which is what I’m always preaching to the choir), take control and put your camera on spot metering, and expose for just the highlights. Do that, and you’ll achieve the mood you were after.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and watch for my 2016 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime, and we’ll be moody together. In conjunction with the Santa Fe Workshops, I’ll be making my third trip to Cuba this March. I still have a spot left so come join me and experience Cuba the way it is now, not the way it will be soon. My new “springtime” workshop is now posted on my blog. This time it’s in Sicily, so for those that’s always had this wonderful country on your bucket list now would be a good time to see and photograph it.

The end of July marks my twenty-eight year at the Maine Media workshops. It’s a wonderful way to immerse yourself for a week and think about nothing but photography. It’s the same week as the Lobster Festival down the road in Rockland, and offers a completely different set of photo ops than the beautiful Maine coastline, amazing lighthouses, and quaint fishing villages. The full description is at the top of this blog.

I have added a new workshop to my 2016 schedule. On September 21st, ten photographers will get together with me at my evening “meet and greet” to begin a fantastic five-day workshop in New York, New York. Check out my description at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me.

Keep sending those photos and questions to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.


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