For a few moments, I’d like for you to indulge me. Sit back in your chair and imagine a place where you feel warm. Maybe it’s next to a roaring fire, maybe it’s sitting on the beach while the sun warms your skin. Now, imagine a place that makes you feel cold. Are you outside in the snow? Or perhaps you’re taking your morning walk down a damp, foggy path. In these examples, what you are imagining is atmosphere. Atmosphere is the quality of the setting around us which evokes our emotions. As photographers, emotions are what we are always seeking to tap into. The most successful photographs are those that trigger emotional responses. By using atmosphere in our photographs, we are more likely to create an image that truly speaks to the viewer.
So, how do we photograph something that can’t be touched? How do we use atmosphere to grab our viewers’ attention and make them feel like they were standing right there with us? Here are a few tips on how you can elevate your photography with atmosphere.
- No.01Watch the Clouds
I have a friend whose daughter calls puffy white clouds against a blue sky “fairytale clouds.” It’s the perfect description, isn’t it?! Clouds have an amazing way of pulling at our heart strings. Think of storm clouds, an approaching storm fills the sky with dark, terrifying clouds which make us feel frightened, but as the storm passes it leaves behind feelings of calmness.
- No.02Embrace the Weather
The next time that you think “Ugh, the weather is terrible, I can’t shoot today!” grab your camera and head straight out into the elements. Instead of hiding from it, use weather to create emotion in your photograph. Rainy weather can evoke feelings of sadness, fog can suggest loneliness, snow makes us feel peaceful. Every weather pattern stirs up some feelings in the viewer, use the objects that you include in your photograph to further entice that emotion.
- No.03Harness the Sun
The sun is all around us. It feeds the plants, lights the earth, and creates heat for us to live. Sunlight also conjures up many feelings in the viewer’s mind. It can create feelings of happiness, warmth, and excitement. By including the sun’s rays in your photograph you can further enhance those feelings.
- No.04Simplify your Scene
Life is chaos. We are constantly running around like chickens with our heads cut off. Our houses need to be cleaned, our cars need to be serviced, our to-do lists need to be done. We are constantly striving for some calm. Some peace. Some quiet time alone. By simplifying our photographs, we can tap into the viewer’s desire for peace. For just a few moments, while they view our images, we can make them feel calm.
- No.05Chase the Rainbow
Over time, our minds have been trained to believe that colors have certain meanings. Red symbolizes power. Orange shows warmth. Pink is feminine. White signifies purity. Green implies growth. Black provokes mystery. There are many emotions and moods that are implied by colors which you can use to communicate a desired emotion to your viewer.
Be creative. Don’t be afraid to take many photographs to practice changing the mood in your images by changing the elements that you include. Only you know the story that you want to tell, by harnessing your viewers’ emotions, your story will unfold.