Menu

Photography 101: Mystery

Show us something uncertain, and manipulate light around you to enhance the mood of your image.

Welcome to Blogging U! This course isn't currently active, but you can learn more about what we offer and register for upcoming courses on the BU home page.

Some photos are significant not because of what’s depicted, but because of the mood they create. They communicate an idea that transcends the actual subject of the image. At the 2013 Montreal Jazz Festival, I wandered into the crowd before an outdoor performance. There was a sense of anticipation, enhanced by dramatic stage lighting that revealed silhouettes of the musicians. What was I about to watch and hear? It was a mystery:

delta blues

Today, share an image that creates a sense of mystery. A lone mitten on the sidewalk. A trail leading off into the distance. Your dog’s deep brown eyes. Intrigue us with uncertainty.

Tip: To stretch yourself, manipulate the light available to you to create a particular effect — use it to cast shadows and highlights to create a moody image. Work with natural light, or find an artificial light source like the stage lights above.

The direction of light has a big impact on your photos. Things lit from the front have few shadows, and are evenly lit. When the light comes from the side, shadows and highlights are introduced, creating more texture and complexity. Lighting from behind throws things into sharp relief, silhouetting your subject.

Not sure where to start?

  • Take your photo during the “Golden Hour”: the time just after sunrise or before sunset when natural light becomes soft and takes on color tones of its own.
  • Illuminate your subject with a flashlight or candle.
  • Take a street shot, using car headlights or street lamps to light your scene.
  • Try a photo during the day when the bulk of the sun is hidden, revealing patches or bursting rays of light.

Working with light is, at heart, what photography is all about.

Note: Comments on Photo 101 posts are closed — please use the Commons to share your new posts, discuss today’s theme and tip, and chat with fellow participants. If you choose not to use the Commons, just be sure to tag your post with photo101 so others can find your submission in the Reader. 

Close Comments