Nature photos are inherently moody. People love sunrises and sunsets for their beauty, but they also love to see photos of places that look peaceful, or angry, as the situation may be. Here are a few underrated techniques that nobody talks about.
Technique #1: Accurately expose dark scenes.
The most common way to kill any kind of mood in photos is to overexpose. People are always searching for the best possible quality, the most clarity, etc. But, turning night into day isn’t exactly how you add mood to your images. If you’re looking to add more mood to your photos, try taking pictures that represent that actual light in the scene.
In the pictures above the scene was dark so I kept my exposure dark. Not every image has to be totally brightened up in every shadow just to show off your camera’s dynamic range. There was a mood in the image above. It was after sunset and getting dark rapidly. It was actually a little darker than this. I often have to restrain myself from trying to get the “best” exposure at times like these and just shoot the scene as it is. There’s nothing wrong with taking one shot in each style.
Technique #2: Let the scene develop.
Some locations are prone to dynamic weather changes whether it’s clouds, rain, wind, etc. One minute it’ll be totally grey the next the sun will be blazing in a clear sky. Don’t get impatient just because it’s cloudy the first minute you arrive at a location. Maybe it won’t clear up for a week, maybe it’ll clear up in 5 minutes, you don’t know. But if you just show up and leave immediately you’re lowering the odds of seeing something spectacular. The same is true of clear blue skies. Clouds can roll in at anytime and add visual interest to a scene, particularly at the end of the day when the changing temperature causes fog and low hanging clouds to form. Remember, fog is just a cloud that is on the ground, but if the ground you’re on is 5,000 feet high then it’s pretty much a cloud at that point. Being aware of how clouds behave and what to expect can allow you to be ready for big moments when the sun breaks through and a magical scene unfolds.
Technique #3: Underexpose bright scenes.
Shooting darker than normal is an interesting way to get mood in an image. Doing this pushes down details and keeps everything more mysterious. It not only enhances the drama but it can also reveal details that are rarely seen such as the solar disk in the image above.