5 Effective Methods to Shoot Moody Street Photography

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How to Shoot Moody Street Photography

As a Perth photographer, I absolutely love moody photography, street photography and combining the two to create moody street photography.

Street photography in itself can be challenging enough let alone trying to capture dark, mysterious and moody street photography.

But what is moody street photography?

Moody street photography, well, moody photography, in general, is photography where light and composition combine so eloquently with the subject that it creates an image that generates an emotional response from the viewer.

So to be able to capture moody street photos, you have to watch the movements all around you, how people walk and talk, facial expressions, the cries and the highs pay attention because there’s always a why they are trying to show you something.

You have to listen to the sounds of the streets, listen to the footsteps, the voices, cars and trains, the sirens and the horns, listen closely, very closely they are trying to tell you something.

Breathe in the cities air, take deep breathes, exhale slowly, there’s something in the air, life from every corner and everything in between.

Move around, don’t stop, feel, brush your hands across the bricks and along the cracks in the cold concrete, feel them deep, they’re scars from wounds caused by history, just feel and see.

Follow the lights, there’s so much you can do and see.

Become absorbed within your city, once you can feel it’s pain, it will tell you all its stories and that’s when you’re going to be able to capture the best moody street photos.

In this blog, I will explain certain elements that encapsulate moody street photography.

I won’t go through my editing process that will finish the images story in this blog.

I’ll save that for later.

Here’s a few tricks capture moody and compelling pictures that captivate the viewer.

Hint, hint, the most important tip I’ve left until last.

Shoot in Low Light

This to me is one of the most important and effective tips to capturing moody photos.

Think of this in the reverse.

What’s the worse light you can take photos in your mission to create mood? In the middle of the day when the sun is high above, beaming down rays of light, exposing everything.

There’s only so much you can do with that high, hard and harsh light.

So what’s the reverse? Low light. The kind of blue light you find at sunrise, it’s soft and subtle, lets not forget about the ember glow of golden hour at sunset.

The overcasting shadows it gives you will be your greatest asset in being able to tell stories.

As a Perth photographer who’s out all the time shooting, I suggest knowing and understanding the changes in light and the way that light affects the mood of your photographs.

You will be greatly rewarded with amazing photographs that will evoke a strong emotional response from anyone who lays their eyes upon your photograph.

I shoot between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Before then is too harsh and after 7:00 pm it’s too dark for the style I have made for myself.

Moody street photography of an old building in perth city with the sun setting behind it, shot by perth photographer morgan nesbitt

Hide Your Subjects Face to Create Mystery

I like shooting people when it comes to street photography, I like the stories people tell me, it’s raw, pure, emotional.

But just because I shoot people doesn’t mean I show their faces.

Hiding a person’s face is one of the easiest and most powerful methods to creating moody and mystery in your street photos.

And it’s what I do in most of my pictures. Just look at my Instagram

When you hide parts of the subject’s face amongst the shadows of the bricks, they instantly become mysterious.

The captivating mystery instils intrigue and that intrigue creates the strongest sense of story in your street photography.

You don’t tell the full story, you always leave something to the viewer’s imagination.

If you hide parts of the person’s face, even parts of their body, the viewer creates their own story in their mind about the photo.

They’ll start to ask themselves questions, questioning everything about the photo…

Who is that person? What do they look like? What are they feeling? What do they do? How did they get here? Where did they come from? Where are they going?

So how do you hide someone’s face? Well start by shooting at low light, the natural shadows will be there to help you and shoot underexposed on your camera.

My camera settings are usually:

Shutter speed: 1/400

Aperture: f/3.2

ISO:400

I then just adjust my ISO as the sun dies down more and more.

Moody street photography of a homeless man in perth city sleeping on the floor, shot by perth photographer morgan nesbitt

Shoot at Different Angles and Perspectives

A lot of street photographers shoot straight ahead from the height of a standing adult.

You can get some really amazing shots from this perspective.

But try to shoot a scene that will show the world to your viewers from a perspective that they don’t usually see and tell them a more impactful story.

This is a great way to shoot more moody street photography. It breeds something a lot different. And different is what snatches any viewer’s attention.

The easiest way to experiment with perspective is to shoot from a low angle and point your camera up.

The scene above you will appear imposing as it looms over you.

then try to find a high vantage point and shoot down onto what moves beneath you.

Shooting from up high can help to distort the faces of your subjects to create that extra moody element.

Changing your shooting angle allows you to create more unique moody street photography.

And the best part is that you’ll never quite know what you’ll get until you try it, so keep moving and changing positions.

Moody street photography of a train conductor waving at pedestrians, shot by perth photographer morgan nesbitt

Choose Your Elements Carefully and Compose

Choosing what to include and what to leave out of your scenes is what makes amazing moody street photography.

If you want to create a sense of mood, you have to stop, think and compose your photos carefully.

The story has to be told right.

You have to include enough detail to start a story. But you also have to choose what details to leave out so the viewer can use their imagination to fill in the missing pieces of the story themselves

If I’m photographing a person looking at something across the street expressing a certain emotion, say anger. If I shoot the scene to include what that person is looking at that made them angry, I’ve revealed the whole story to my viewers and I instantly lose all effectiveness of the image.

But if I shot the scene to leave out what they’re looking at, the photo will be moodier because it allows the viewer to create their own story.

When framing your street photos, be more deliberate, don’t just point and shoot, stop, take a moment or two feel emotions of the scene.

Here’s what you need to decide:

  • Which elements you want to include.
  • What person or people you want in your shot, you want the viewer to see the context in which the subject appears.
  • What surroundings you want to include, sit back for a little
  • What elements you’re going to leave out, it can be hard at first

Once you get a hold of this, your moody street photography will get better and better.

Photograph of a man resting on his bicycle, shot by perth photographer morgan nesbitt

What Story Do You Want to Tell

This is the most important tip for capturing a moody street photo.

Before you attach your lens and switch the camera on you have to know what story you want to tell, the story is your concept for the shoot.

I won’t go into how I develop a story for when I go out and shoot moody street photography because I have written a tutorial already on how to develop a photography concept.

Once you know in your heart of hearts what story you want to tell your senses and emotions will work together to bring that story to life.

The story you tell yourself becomes your guide, you will see, hear and feel things differently.

Your photographs will be in direct correlation to what you feel and what stories you tell yourself.

Photo of a man wrapped up in blankets sitting on a perth street. Shot by perth photographer morgan nesbitt

In The End

Moody street photography is a combination of shooting and editing.

I haven’t gone into how I edit my street photos to bring out more mood and finish the story, that will be in another blog to save overwhelming you.

It starts with capturing the moment first.

So go out and shoot to capture interesting moments with a strong sense of emotion, mood, mystery and intrigue.

Now, as you can see from everything I’ve covered, moody street photography sounds simple on the surface. But when you start going deeper and shooting, it’s really not that simple.

There are so many tricks and techniques I could share that you can use to improve your moody street photos. But I could only share a few of them in this blog post.

But once you really understand what goes into shooting street photography with a strong mood, you’ll be taking never before seen, emotion-evoking photographs!

If you would like to read more about my photography, you can jump to my Pursuit of Photography blog to discover more.

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