Six Simple Tips for Shooting Moody Photographs Using Natural Light

Despite Instagram being dominated by beautiful, airy, bokeh ball-laden images of people looking happy, sometimes you just want to create something a bit darker. In this short video, Mango Street give you some basic tips for shooting indoors using natural light to achieve a moodier, more somber look to your photographs.

Windows are key, and the bigger the better. As Daniel and Rachael note, windows come with most houses so it’s rare that you can’t reshuffle your furniture to take advantage.

If you’ve not checked out this excellent video from boudoir photographer Michael Sasser, be sure to have a look as it offers an excellent complement to this list of ideas from Mango Street, especially for those who are relatively new to photography.

For Sasser, shooting indoors using natural light is made easier by the addition of sheer curtains; Mango Street were blessed with what seems to be some overcast conditions, and while direct sunlight can create some interesting shadows, you might want something more diffused. The curtains will soften the light and create a more subtle shift between the bright and dark parts of the image.

Shooting with a fast lens is fairly crucial when it comes to creating indoor images using natural light as the light levels can be surprisingly low. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on an f/1.4 lens; instead check out an f/1.8 nifty fifty such as this one from Canon. If that’s still a bit pricey and you don’t mind some softness and slower autofocus, the Yuongnuo 50mm f/1.8 can also be a lot of fun.

If you have any other suggestions, be sure to leave a comment below.

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David Stephen Kalonick's picture

You can't shoot both(referring to her statement in the beginning of the video)? One might argue they're no rules in art. As a wedding shooter, I shoot what's available or shots I've discussed with my client and ones that they love. When I shoot for commercial clients, I work with creative directors or head of marketing to capture whatever style they need. I think a majority young photographers need to step outside the box and not be afraid to show a bit of it all instead of thinking they have to achieve one look.

aaronbratkovics's picture

I enjoyed the video and the tips. I feel the talent/posing is important. I think what makes this type of work difficult is balancing the two.

Thank you.

Robert Altman's picture

If 'moody' means 'dark' then you can achieve that with any image by decreasing the exposure (and especially the midtones) in post (think day-for-night Hollywood). If 'moody' means contrasty then keeping your subject close to the light source (window) is key as this allows for the rapid fall off of brightness the the inverse square law provides...