Controlling Mood and Emotion in an Image

When it comes to photography, the very best images will always convey a certain mood or emotion. By using a particular light, or type of light, we, as photographers, can control the mood and feel of an image by making adjustments to things like the direction, position, hardness or softness and even temperature of the light.

In this course you’ll learn how you can create two very different images by completely changing the look and feel of an image, even if it’s the exact same subject and composition.

Shooting an overhead shot of an eyewear designers desk, Karl first demonstrates how to create clean, bright lighting, similar to what you’d expect in an office. He then creates a far more evocative lighting setup, recreating the light you’d expect to see with early morning or late afternoon sunlight streaming through a window.

These two comparisons clearly demonstrate why light and mood are so important in photography and how, by using the right modifiers, you can create almost any look.


  1. Hello Karl,
    Can you please tell me how gels have an impact on the density of the shadows? Even if the flooter is essentially a large fresnel light modifier that collimates light, as it gets further and further away from the subject it becomes a smaller and smaller light source therefore a harder light source. Can you please elaborate a little more what happens at 7:37 when Urs explains that the distance of the gels between the Flooter and the subject plays an important role when it comes to softness of the shadows cast by the subject. Am I missing something here? Do these colored gel have also a diffusion effect of the light? I know the 216 Lee filter does and its distance to the light source dictates the hardness, density and transition of the shadows but what does Urs mean when dealing with colored gel in relation to the light source? Thanks.

    1. Hi Miles, we were talking about the intensity of the colour of the shadows (not the softness) due to the distance of the gel. By not having the gels on the light it can be affected in a couple of ways, 1. more of your light source will bounce around the studio making the shadows have less colour from the gel because more of the neutral light is bouncing around the studio but in this case with the flooter being very directional beam then the colour is actually made stronger because the gel is closer to the subject and there is minimal bounce around the studio anyway from the flooter because of it’s more direct beam. Next we’ve moved the flooter further away not so much for the look of the shadows but for the inverse square law so that the light looks more like natural sunlight in it’s exposure level across the scene (see our 2 classes on inverse square law).

      1. Thanks, Karl. Great explanation on that one. Since I do not use gels very often I am glad I have learned something new about light when using gels. This is probably why the application of the blue gel around the bulb of the general illumination-global fill yields a quite delicate blue tint to the scene since being so close to the light source and far from the subject cannot overpower the other warmer tones created with the key directional light (the flooter). Hope I got this right. Thanks again!

  2. Karl, when you talk about Inverse square law you often say that the closer the light the bigger it is and thus softer when dealing with modifiers. How does a bare bulb far back affect the “softness” of light? Thanks

    1. Hi Dill, size is relative to the subject so a bare bulb light when put close to an ant is a soft light if photographing an ant. In nearly most other cases it is a hard light with strong shadows because we are not usually photographing ants. A bare bulb light further away in the studio will be a harder light but if your studio is white there will be more bounce of light making the hard edge shadows look lighter. Please see this class if you haven’t already:

  3. Wow, one of your most beautiful shots I’ve seen so far, yet so different in style to what you usually do. Truly a master!

    1. Very kind thank you, although for me this isn’t one of my favourite shots. I have a few probably other product shots or some of my fashion ones.

  4. I like these kind of tutorials. They give me different ideas. I’d like to recreate by changing the impression it’s raining outside. Can’t hurt to try. Thank you…

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