Deal 8: Here it is: The most requested deal of 2014!
Recently at a get together with 6 photographer friends we started chatting about the idea of adding Drama and Mystery to images.
Don’t ask me how we got to the topic but the conversation was so good that I decided to ask each photographer for their favourite technique for creating Dramatic and Mysterious Shots.
Here are their paraphrased responses:
While keeping your shots tack sharp is something that many of us aim for – slowing down your shutter speed a little and allowing moving objects in your frame to blur a little (or a lot) can certainly add a new dimension to your images.
There’s not many things more mysterious than a Silhouette. The simple outline of a person or element can convey so much – yet will also leave those viewing the image wondering about and imagining the missing details.
Further Reading on Silhouettes: How to Photograph Silhouettes in 8 Easy Steps
One way to add a lot of punch to your images is to alter the perspective that you shoot from. While everyone else is shooting from the same angle – get down on the ground and shoot up or find a way to shoot down on your image. Mix it up and find the perspective that ‘makes’ the shot.
Light is to photographers what paint is to painters. Learn to use it right and you can completely change the message conveyed in your image. Changing the angle light hits your subject (back lit, side lit etc), adding to or taking away intensity of light, reflecting it or even changing its colour all can add a great deal of drama to your shots.
Further Reading on Light: 9 Lighting Types to Harness and Improve Your Photography
Often overlooked by beginners – the colours featured in your images will often set the emotional scene for those viewing your images. The photographer I asked was a big user of bold colour in her photography but paying attention to colours of all intensities are well worth investigating.
Further Reading on Color: Captivating Color: a Guide to Dramatic Color Photography
How much of your image can play a big part in setting the drama and mystery within it. Using selective focus (or having a narrow depth of field where only a small part (if any) of the image in focus while the rest is thrown out of focus) can leave much of what is in your frame mysteriously hidden (yet partially revealed) – in a similar way to a Silhouette.
Of course this is not an exhaustive list and none of the six photographers would use their chosen technique or approach in every single image. They all expressed that it completely depended on the situation they were shooting in.
However – what would YOU add? What techniques and approaches have you found add to the drama, mystery and interest in your images?
February 20, 2012 08:45 am
Monotone and silhouette
February 19, 2012 09:08 am
I used selective focus to show an encounter with a deer in the forest. The deer is also perfectly silhouetted against a bright patch of grass, but that part was purely coincidental.
February 18, 2012 10:06 am
I'm not sure if this is drama or not; I did darken and posterize it. The other shots I've seen in these posts are amazing!!!
February 18, 2012 06:52 am
Motion blur won me $200.00 in a photo contest!
February 18, 2012 05:44 am
These are great articles but I just wish you would include the lens used and data info.
February 18, 2012 12:13 am
Amazing tips and comments! Will put them into practice.
February 17, 2012 07:00 pm
What a co-incidence. I just ended up taking a few pics that fall into 4 out of these 6 approaches. And the silhouette one is eerily similar to the one up here. You can check out my travel pics at www.bhavenjani.photoshelter.com and my travel blog at www.bhavenjani.wordpress.com Look forward to your comments.
February 17, 2012 02:05 pm
no offense taken - actually one of the reasons I liked the image was that my Son was the main focus of the image - to me the snail was secondary in this shot while my boy was what I was hoping people would be drawn to.... guess it depends on how one looks at it but points taken :-)
February 17, 2012 01:08 pm
Darren, I sure hope my criticism wasn't too harsh. ;-) I have been following your site and have seen many of your stunning photos! The image in question - without a doubt - illustrates the point, and I guess that's what matters in the context of this discussion. I guess I was just being too picky, and since this site is dedicated to giving the best of advice to photo enthusiasts, I thought it would be appropriate to point out that an image may not work as intended if the background (or any secondary element of the photo that is not meant to be the primary subject by the photographer) - blurred or not - still remains too strong and overpowering. At least that was my first and lasting impression of the image. Anyway, thanks for the great content in this site. Always pleasure to visit.
February 17, 2012 10:19 am
thanks Constantine - in actual fact there was very little Lightroom in that shot and none around creating blur - it was shot at f1.4. Appreciate it isn't going to be for everyone but was hoping it'd illustrate the point. Will go back to my practicing position :-)
February 17, 2012 08:28 am
How is this for creating mystery with motion blur? It's my attempt at something more abstract.
I'd love to hear your feedback! Thanks!
February 17, 2012 07:54 am
[eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/maja_petkova/5833700701/' title='Me, Myself & I' url='http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2475/5833700701_2393288835_z.jpg']
February 17, 2012 06:08 am
I totally get the motion blur on the first image - that's not too hard, but why are the two burred women so huge?
Was this two images blended together?
February 17, 2012 04:52 am
The corollary to dramatic light, sorta shown in the example in the article, is simply a large percentage of black intergal to the image. That means not just a dark back-ground (a la back iit subjects) to separate/highlight the foreground, but a shape/form inter-twined to the overall "design" of the image. What is lit is not necessarily dramatic lighting. It's more a function of negative & positive areas being integrated. The negative may not be black, though to my eye, it lends the most impact.
February 17, 2012 04:30 am
All very good suggestions, except the last image is, in my opinion, a great example of how NOT to do it. I love selective focus, but the trick - applicable to anything you do, really - is subtlety. The blurred background in the last image is way overpowering - with overly saturated colors and too much contrast, while the blurring looks too obviously enhanced in post-processing. Looks as if a newbee Lightroom user went to town... What's the first thing you see in that image? The snail? Nope. It's the acidic image of the blurred kid in the Buzz Lightyear costume that burns your eyes - even if you are trying to stare at the snail... Rubbing my eyes... A great idea, in general. Bad sample photo. No offense...
February 17, 2012 04:20 am
Great ideas! Can't wait to grab my camera and experiment this weekend!
February 17, 2012 12:48 am
A low angle and vivid colour shot.
February 16, 2012 09:41 pm
as usual, great article!
February 16, 2012 05:27 pm
these are very good tips, thanks for the insight
February 16, 2012 12:49 pm
fun in photography is a good thing
i have made a drama and mystery
February 16, 2012 12:21 pm
Wow.... wow.... wow... wow...
February 16, 2012 11:14 am
These are all great suggestions. I love the new stuff and the reminders that I get by reading your work.
Here's some pretty cool shots that use the silhouette technique:
February 16, 2012 09:38 am
All great ideas, I'd recommend Film Noir as another way to add some drama.
February 16, 2012 09:29 am
Shooting with the intention of later converting a suitable image to black & white which can add drama to some images by making the viewer concentrate on the image without being distracted by colours.
February 16, 2012 05:50 am
Great article, Darren! As far as mystery goes, I like to use selective focus and lots of soft edges. A Lensbaby works well when seeking mystery in an image, especially when one wants to do the work in camera. In the link below, I used a Lensbaby Composer with the f/2.8 ap ring to accomlish this.
February 16, 2012 04:10 am
This is totally true, especially in my line of photography.
I do Automotive Photography for http://CustomPinoyRides.com
Not so much on the mystery part but really more on the drama bit, I use all of the above to make the photos really stand out.
1. I use motion blur to give the notion of fast paced action. Either the subect (car) stationary and the background moving, or the subject moving, and me moving with it. E.g. Rolling Shot.
2. For silhouettes, though not used very often, I sometimes use this to show the lines and curves of a particular car or its body kit.
3. For shooting cars, it's always more dramatic if you shoot it from a low perspective. Usually headlight or tail light level. These are views that you don't often see in person, as you're usually viewing cars from above going down. But shooting down and low gives the cars more "attitude" and "personality", as if you're looking at it eye-to-eye. It's more of like automotive portraiture so to speak.
4. As for dramatic light, this is one of my favorites, as I love shooting with off-camera flashes. This, in my opinion, is what separates the pros from the amateurs. You can do so much more with off-camera flash. I always tell people that I shoot with available light. Yes, my flashes are always available, any time of the day. Hahaha!
5. For selective focus, this is most effective when shooting detail shots, such as emblems, and other individual parts of the car. The key is finding the areas where you think the designers spent countless hours integrating onto the car. If they put it there for a reason, the there must be something visually appealing to it. So shoot it!
Just my two cents!
February 16, 2012 04:02 am
The example shot for dramatic light is awesome! Great idea, I am guessing the photographer was standing in front of a mirror as the Super Man logo is backwards.
For a recent photo, I used layer masks to combine two shots to create drama for a photo essay I titled, "The Future is on the Street"
February 16, 2012 03:08 am
Such simple tips but still so useful. It's so easy to forget about those basic ideas. Kimberly is right about the immediat want to grab my camera.
February 16, 2012 02:51 am
I love reading your articles! They are a constant source of knowledge and inspiration.
For Drama in this shot of rocks on the beach in San Diego, I used a Neutral Density filter for long exposure to smooth out the surf to make the rocks Pop...then 3 bracket HDR
February 16, 2012 02:47 am
Sometimes macro can add drama and mystery to a photograph. Here is a very unique shot of one of those Amazon Forest water filled sink hole thingy.... Water at the base, rocks up the side, then the bright light of the daytime streaming in.
Or is it just really a macro shot of my kitchen work surface at home.
February 16, 2012 02:10 am
These are amazing. I love posts like this, because I immediately want to grab my camera. Thanks for sharing. I got some great ideas.
February 16, 2012 01:57 am
How about some dramatic souvenirs? But in reality I know these pics look flat in front of those in the post!
Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook
Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook
Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook
Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE
GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed