There is probably no better example of how to use lights and shadows to create a visual mood than to cite horror films. I think of Nicole Kidman walking into a fog in The Others; of Chloe Grace Moretz sitting barefoot on a swing at midnight in Let Me In; of Piper Laurie surrounded by candles in Carrie; and of Peter Wyngarde, in silhouette, standing on a tower in The Innocents.
In other words, any image can be made to appear joyful or sad, soothing or scary, calming or eerie, or radiant or gloomy depending on the use of colors, lights and shadows.
Take, for instance, a water fountain in a garden. It’s the same water fountain in the two photos in this post. And the two photos were taken in the same afternoon seven minutes apart. The one below was taken at 5.34 p.m. while the one above was taken at 5.41 p.m. according to the camera’s EXIF data. That’s right. The “dark” photo was taken earlier than the “bright” photo.
In the photo above, the mood is happy and quite dreamy. Bright colors, koi happily swimming in the pond, water cascading, flowers and trees in the background.
In the second photo, the fountain and the water are in silhouette, the trees in the background are almost black and there are dark gray clouds in the afternoon sky.
Camera filters? Special equipment? No, just positioning.
In the first photo, the sun was behind me so the light was in every object in the frame.
In the second photo, the sun was in front of me and the fountain was between me and the sun.
The position of the light source relative to the subject creates shadows that give an image a certain mood. Just a matter of walking a few steps and turning around. Simple, really, but with such dramatically different results.
The photos were taken at The Ruins, Talisay City, Negros Occidental.