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In the first part I mentioned the five elements that have the most impact on mood & emotion in art photography: Light, Composition, Contrast, Color and Detail. I use their initials L-C-C-C-D as a mnemonic device; a working checklist.


Nothing influences the overall mood of a scene more than Light. So the first decision in field work is to pick the right time and weather conditions for the best possible light. Do I want a dark, “moody” and mysterious look for the particular scene, or a bright and airy, high key rendering? A back-lit silhouette? Soft light diffused by fog? Sweet, low angle illumination? An intense shower of photons from above?

Typically the ’sweetest’ light of the day comes in the  “golden hour” . But that does not mean every scene must be shot during that time. For each situation I must make a conscious choice on my light preference. What kind of light would best communicate the mood, the emotion, the atmosphere I visualize for this scene? Should I plan to return during the golden hour? Do I need to stay put and wait for a weather system to move in or out? Is this the best season, the best position of the sun (or moon), etc.  One thing I know: if the scene inspires,  it is worth returning to it when light conditions are optimal.

Developing the light content of an image is also my first priority in the digital darkroom. Whatever light I might have managed to capture in the field, I can usually enhance it further with image processing tools.  I prefer to work mainly with Adobe products such as Camera Raw converter and Photoshop CS but image adjustments can be made with any number of other products, too.


Note that enhancing the overall quality of light does not necessarily mean working with just the bright areas of an image. Often it only takes a  darkening of the shadows or perhaps a tweaking of the color saturation to make my subject ‘pop’ and look more vibrant, as if the light had been improved.

Adjustments in any one key element of an image, such as brightness, contrast or color, will impact the whole image. This leads to the realization that the digital art photographer must see him- or herself as an artist/painter in many respects.

Just like a painter I must take responsibility for how my image develops as a result of my processing choices. The words “this is how it came out” have no meaning in digital photo-art processing. How an image “comes out” of my digital darkroom should be no accident, nor the result of someone else’s choices (e.g. the default choices built into the camera by the manufacturer). It should look exactly the way I want it to look, or …I keep working on it.

And I can choose to re-create the original scene as best I can recall it with my heart and mind, or, I may decide to take it beyond. To guide me, if I choose to follow this latter path, I rely on imagination, experimentation or inspiration from other visual artists, painters and photographers who may have produced similar images before. For example, I find the work of artists like Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Cole or the English Romantics highly inspiring when looking for ideas on dramatic use of light in nature scenes.   And it is so easy to review such work on the web, albeit in a very small scale.

Next:  Composition