By Roger (6 Mar 2014)
When you're out photographing a scene, “opening up the lens, to keep your ISO low, in order to reduce the digital noise and provide a background with a great bokeh,” don't forget to put some feeling into your photograph. Your photographs should be more than just technically correct; whenever possible, you want your viewers to feel something when they look at your work. It is your job to find or set the mood of the photo you want to make.
For technical photographers, this may be a challenge. This is where the ART of photography holds sway. This is a good time to sit and think before you pick up the camera. You need to go beyond the dials and settings, and think about how you want your viewer to feel when they look at your photo.
Getting into the mood of your photo really isn't that difficult if you think through it. You go through moods in your daily life; you just need to apply them to your photos. Is the weather somber, dark, and dreary? How can you capture that in your photo? If the mood you want to capture is joy, what kind of things will help your viewer feel that in your photo?
As a people photographer, I can create the scene, but I rely heavily on facial expressions and the eyes of my models to bring out the emotion. Props can add to the mood, but people make quick judgements by looking at faces. The position of the camera can add to the environment. If you shoot from up high, you can make the model seem vulnerable or over-powered. You can also shoot the model from a distance to emphasize isolation or sadness. To make a happy portrait, I go in close to give a more intimate, friendly feeling.
For people photography, we want to capture a particular mood: happiness, love, mystery, pain, anger. Pick any strong emotion that will be recognized. People can usually tell genuine emotion through the subjects eyes. We've been told this through the ages and long before cameras even existed. For slice of life photos, you don't even have to worry about everything being technically correct; the emotion can carry the photo.
I have to work much harder to create moods when there are no people in my photos. Weather is pretty easy, but objects give me more trouble. How can an object give you a feeling? Well, give your viewer more clues. Use lighting, colors, lines, signs, and noise as indicators. A very busy scene will give them a different feeling than a single object. The color red gives you a different feeling than blue.
Try to know your audience and their normal life experiences. Different cultures and subcultures may miss your clues. For example, if you are a US military member, the photo below, evokes an immediate response that would be completely lost on someone from a remote Asian village.
Occasionally, someone may see something you don't or completely different than you. Be open to another reading of your photo. If you get the chance to talk, you may find another interesting point of view you hadn't considered (or figure they're nuts and, maybe, you should move away slowly). ;-)
So put on your artist beret, and go beyond the technical aspects of photography. There is much more to this photography thing than showing off your latest lens and seeing whose camera can shoot the most frames per second. If your photographs can provoke emotion in your viewer, you have made a good photograph.