Let Your Photography Tell Your Story Part 2

March 12, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

This week, I would like to approach the telling of your story from the angle of mood. Mood, as you can imagine, is a huge contributing factor to telling your story the way only you can tell it. If you are a landscape photographer, you don't always have a say in the matter, at least this is how it appears to be. Nature can not be forced to cooperate with us and we then tend to capture the moments as we receive them.

But what if we start with mood though? How would that work? This would start with you, the photographer. It would start with a story that you'd like to tell in your work, which will make it more cohesive. If you work from one mood, one story, you can capture an array of scenes with the same underlying message. 

So, start by looking at the work from others that you like best. Do the pictures have something in common? Are you drawn to happy colourful scenes, bright and airy scenes, dark and moody pictures, elegant pastels, minimalist pictures, dramatic and ominous landscapes or perhaps very monochromatic quiet images? What moods are you attracted to?

Shades of pastel at an early sunrise on the banks of the Old Rhine in The Netherlands Pink dawn with sun rising through a tree in wetland areaThis picture was taken in the Gelderse Poort, The Netherlands at dawn in early spring. The sun rose exactly behind this tree and the mist made the sun rays appear.

Let's say you want your work to tell the story of elegance, this would greatly influence the scenes you pick. Perhaps you go to the same view points as others but have a totally different approach. It might mean that you need to visit a location in very particular weather conditions and in one specific season. It has an effect on the colours that would be part of the picture, on the lines, the shapes and also greatly on the choice of lens. If you want to have your work ooze elegance, it does not make much sense to use tele lenses too much which compresses scenes and then tend to remove the airy feel from them.

Let me give you an example. Let's say you work from a mood of feminine elegance and you want to take a picture of the Eiffel Tower. It would make very little sense to use a wide angle lens, having a huge tree trunk as the first object in your picture and the Eiffel Tower in the background. The tree trunk would totally ruin the elegance. You might opt for Spring though, perhaps when the magnolia trees are flowering and you scout until you find a street with a view on the Eiffel Tower lined by pink flowering trees. Try to look at each element in the scene and decide if they help you tell your story or if they will detract from it.

Dancing trees in a Dutch winter forestBeech trees in a white winter forestThis picture was taken on a magical morning when winter was at its best with dense fog, snow and ice

I try to stick with one message in my work, which is stillness in the magical side of reality. This is my reason for shooting in early mornings and preferably on foggy days. It also means not having people in most of my pictures and....something that always surprises a lot of other photographers, it is also the reason that I am less fond of autumn colours which interfere with the story that I want to tell. I usually opt to not have man made structures in my images either, except those that might add a sense of timelessness. 

Birch lane on a foggy summer morningThe BirchesI captured this lane at a very foggy morning at the Veluwezoom, The Netherlands. The fog gives this scene a painterly feel

I make this work by visiting possible locations whenever I can, always trying out compositions, so I know where to go when the circumstances are such that they will let me tell my story. I don't let conditions stop me from photographing though; cloudy, grey days are perfect to try out different angles, find new spots without being hindered by distracting spots of light. I always take pictures with in the back of my mind the mood and vision that I want to convey. I always start from there. Sometimes this means I have to be very patient waiting for the right circumstances and sometimes it looks like they never come, which is why I recommend building up a large file of possible locations and photos, by scouting and knowing exactly where to go when nature gives you the exact atmosphere that you were hoping for. Sometimes these moments are very short-lived and you'd better know where you need to be at those times.

So you see that having a theme, a mood, in mind, that you want represented in your port folio, greatly influences the choices you make. It even has its consequences on how you offer your work for sale. If the mood you wish to portray is awe of the vastness of a landscape, you might want to offer way larger prints than someone like me with a port folio built around stillness. Of course it also has an immense influence on the way you edit your pictures. Happy moods require more saturation than for example moody scenes. Everything starts with the intention behind the story that you wish to tell, the mood that you want to convey. Work from there and your port folio will be more cohesive and have more impact.

Part 1 of this series of 4 blog posts can be read here: Let Your Photography Tell Your Story Part 1


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