Composition and mood.

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by lawrence_smithers, Dec 4, 2003.

  1. While we hear with some frequency how importand composition is in
    yielding an interesting image which holds your attention;we seldom
    give much time to the rules of composition which deal mainly with
    the "convering of mood" It is probably reasonable to say that a
    photograph which does not convey the photographers mood and reaction
    to a scene;is a photograph of no intrest and value.In defining mood
    it is not unreasonable to suggest that mood is a continuum ranging
    from great excitement to virtual dullness which has at its core a
    series of significant emotions. These might
    include;peace,solitude,lonliness, claustrifobia,anger,dismay
    excitement anticipation etc . While I have viewed examples of the
    methods of composition which clearly demonstrate some of tools which
    convey moods ;It would be interesting to hear how you convey mood in
    composing your images. The classic case of displaying lonliness for
    example is the placement of a very small but clearly identifyable
    subject ,probably a person or child ,at the cental point of a broad
    detailess area of the subject. references to existing literature
  2. Composition, subject, tonality -- and, not least, the subjective
    interpretation of these things on the part of the viewers, with all
    their individual/cultural 'baggage'.

    It's really very complex to try to reduce it to a formula, but the
    world of advertising is there to instruct us all: diamonds for love,
    hallmark to show we care, emaciated children for guilt, beer for
    sex, huge stonking SUV for machismo, ad nauseum.
  3. I guess composing for mood is kind of alien to me. Usually I'm not trying to portray a mood and/or the subject/idea is straightforward enough to not need enhancements. I find that overt attempts to inject false emotions on an image usually make for obvious photos.

    Having said that, most of my black and white images are considered 'moody' because I photograph in overcast, rainy weather and print dark.
  4. As a B&W film photographer, I subscribe to and am in the process of studying the Zone System as a jumping-off point in my work.

    First of all, if Adams has fallen out of current vogue, forgive the intrusion, but this post brings to mind a follow-on question.

    There are, as defined, contrast zones. Are there zones for mood? How would we define the spectrum, possibly as several interleaving zones between extremes. For instance, Zone 0 would be absolute solitude while Zone 9 would be whatever we agree the opposite of complete solitude is (maybe an excessively crowded street scene, maybe not).

    I believe, as Lawrence suggests, that a photograph should convey the mood of the photographer. Art is expression, and if you aren't shooting with an idea of what you want to say, you are clicking, not photographing.

    Possibly my interleaving zones idea would only be useful as a photographic theme, as far as moods are concerned, but are there some golden rules of composition where we could agree upon their solid
  5. "Art is expression, and if you aren't shooting with an idea of what you want to say, you are clicking, not photographing."

    But that doesn't mean every single part of the photograph has to be tweaked to produce a 'mood'. Nor does it mean that ideas have to be mood-dependant or always based upon the feeling of a photographer at the time of making the photograph. If one wants to create a mood in their photos then I guess adjusting the tonal range would be a good way to go about it.
  6. Andy,

    I think you might be taking it a little bit far by saying that if you aren't shooting with an idea in mind of what you want to say that you are just clicking. I think that mood often plays a big role in many photographer's work, and it is not always at the concious level. I know this to be true for me.

    I often will go out to shoot with no plan in mind at all and just start shooting anything. This usually leads me on through the day. If you ever saw the movie "Finding Forrester", its sort of like when Forrester says to his young student "write first, think later." Sometimes when you go out with an empty mind your mood leads the way. For me some of my most interesting and revealing images have come from this method (according to my critics).

  7. In addition to what I said above, In my opinion tweaking a photograph doesn't produce the mood. Your mood is present before you look through the viewfinder, if you don't capture the mood there no amount of tweaking will make it a more interesting shot.
  8. David I agree with you totally. My first sentence was a direct quote from Eric in the paragraph above and I was responding to it. I'm new here and not sure how you usually quote another posting.

    It's obvious to me that, when you look at well-known or successful photographers and artists, there is no one single formula. They run from meticulously prepared scenes, such as those of Jeff Wall or Gregory Crewdson, to the rapid instinctual works by the great street photographers. You use what works for you.
  9. Good topic, Lawrence. Here's how I work, sometimes successfully, and sometimes not: I get the itch to make some photographs, leave the house with camera, tripod, etc, and head out for a location I've considered studying with the lens (sometimes I just take off without any notion where I'm going).

    When I get to my destination, and when I start "seeing" photographs - only then do I start considering things like mood and composition. I'm content oriented, so I have to connect to my subect first. The subject dictates MY moods toward it, and then I consider how I will interpret it. COMPOSITION is just ONE of many tools (albeit one of the more important ones) for interpretation. How the light plays on the subject, exposure, et all, ends up on the negative. Then I've got the task of interpreting the negative onto the final print. Photography, especially black and white, is a hard way to make meaningful statements.

    But I understand the notion behind your original post. Composition, in all of its varient forms, is vital. There's a lot of poorly composed stuff out there that's considered good photographic art. Hummm
  10. To convey the mood, I work with that what is present that originally created the mood. If there's dampness, I try to capture the dampness as this will trigger certain auto responses in the viewer. How many times have you heard someone say, "I can just smell the muste in the air.", or something to that affect. I try to accurately capture the texture in the clouds and the dynamic range between the clouds and the landscape so there's full texture top to bottom. I try to expose so as to capture the highlights and the shadows as this reflects how we see, not how the camera sees. I try to get the viewer to look beyond the obvious, to engage the viewer's eyes to see further into the image as opposed to the superficial. I try to juxtaposition objects so as to create a layered look to get the person to look at the superficially obvious and then to draw back realizing there's more to the image then the obvious. I use light and shadowing to set a tone or capture the mood. Pick a word; bright, cheerful, depressing, ominous, happy, sad, whatever. Choose the word to fill in the blank.
  11. This is a continuation of the first reply. I sometimes use words to enhance the image, to convey the mood as most people aren't going to have the same thoughts that I do as I see and image and a thought skrikes me as I decide to capture an image. Below are a few words that conveys the thought/mood that struck me as I saw this image before I captured it. I'm old, I'm worn. My frame sags from years of use. It was a good run and the seasons were fun. I'm glad I was here. Coming to grips with the thoughs in my head I see the light. As I approach "The Last Doorway of Winter". So the act of conveying a mood can be via light, shadow, color, texture, perspective, etc., etc., ect. and words:)

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