The colour content of an image has a significant bearing upon mood. Strong strident colours are obvious and invigorating, and tend to demand attention. Bold colour combinations also attract, but clashes that might be regarded as poor taste may repel. Pastel colours are soft, soothing and subtle and generate a feeling of calm. Similar hues and saturations reduce contrast and seem to merge easily together. Monochromatic images, where a single colour dominates and contrast and definition are lacking, often evoke emotional responses. A scene showing a man walking his dog in thick fog consequently has a sombre, lonely feel. Colour casts, such as those created by appropriate coloured filters, may also work well.
Soft and differential focus convey mood by suppressing detail throughout the image or in the defocused areas. They reduce contrast and merge defocused areas of colour until they become abstract. Slight over-exposure also softens colours and creates a degree of mystery. This can be attractively romantic, but bear in mind that all these techniques can be overused.
Prevailing light also imposes mood. The face of an elderly man, wrinkled by experience, may be thrown into wonderfully expressive and atmospheric relief by side-lighting. Alternatively, muted colours and large areas of shadow tones might bring serenity and solemnity to the same subject. At sunrise or sunset the light is warm and lends itself to reflective images of y types. However for the tender complexion of a young girl, pastel colours and soft light provide an appropriate fragility and gentleness that is more flattering. Strong light is bright and cheerful, particularly when combined with lively colours, and can be used to highlight exuberance and vitality. But when used as back-lighting it emphasizes the outline of a subject and conceals detail and form. Images of this type rely on strong shapes, but are distinctive and intriguing.
Interiors are often best photographed using available light. Too much supplementary lighting is likely to kill the comfortable atmosphere of a room, and consequently change the mood of the image, so flash should be used sparingly and balanced with ambient light wherever possible.
Broad environmental elements can also be used to convey mood. Depressing streets and run-down industrial areas imply a hard, monotonous existence. Dirty surroundings, smoke or fog may add to a feeling of drudgery and depression. Atmospheres of this type can be emphasized in low-key images dominated by dark tones, or relieved by a lighter high-key approach.