How to Capture Mood

Hout Bay, Cape Town, from Chapman's Peak

Images have the power to evoke emotion and move viewers in various ways. This is worth keeping in mind while you’re taking photographs and also when you’re selecting and sharing them for the purpose of showcasing your company or career, imparting information or spreading inspiration.

Mood in images can be contributed by lighting and other factors, from the personality and actions of specific subjects like people and animals, to a range of artfully conceptualized or natural scenarios and settings. The creative and technical choices that you make regarding composition and camera settings can also affect your results considerably. Since we’ve just been on holiday and enjoyed the lingering pleasure and rejuvenating relaxation of nature, we’re reminded how valuable it can be to tap into this again throughout the year, via the medium of emotive images.

Cape Town is an abundantly moody city. The spectacular scenery and natural heritage offer unlimited opportunities to practice capturing mood in your images. We took advantage of this recently because our regular life in Johannesburg is far removed from mountains and the sea. The images above and below illustrate two different moods from the Mother City, the first being an evocative, expansive seascape, shot from Chapman’s Peak drive towards Hout Bay, and the second zooming in on the vibrant tranquility of the shallows at Clifton Second Beach, simply oozing summer.

Sea Shallows at Clifton Second Beach, Cape Town

Combining the words vibrance and tranquility by itself seems to imply levels of contradiction, reflective of the many moods of the ocean, and shooting a tight angle that leaves so much to the imagination enhances the mystery, perhaps even encouraging a meditative state. By contrast, utilizing a wider angle in the Hout Bay photo allows the viewer to absorb a comprehensive picture of the magnificent scenery basking in evening light. It conjures a completely different feeling, so much so that you can almost imagine dramatic orchestral music as accompaniment.

Both are shot on aperture priority with an ISO setting of 200 and matrix metering. The wave image has a focal length of 48mm at f/8 to allow an average depth of field and fast shutter speed of 1/1250 sec to ensure clarity of the water and foam, while the Hout Bay scene is taken at 24mm and f/22 to incorporate a long depth of field to keep everything in focus. The relatively lower shutter speed of 1/60 sec accommodates the available light. When it comes to capturing mood, your opportunities to play are unlimited. We hope these examples help to provide inspiration to do just that. Enjoy!