How to Light Dark Moody Images

If you have ever wanted to create dark and moody images of people or food, then this video will help you understand how to light them.

In the UK, Autumn is flying by and we are cannon balling into a bleak 6 month winter. Inevitably a lot of the work that we produce at this time of year fits our glum surroundings. Although in this video I use food as the subject matter, this will work for absolutely any subject.

In order to create these dark and moody images that seem to be taking over my instagram explore page, you really don’t need any fancy kit. Although I have a kitted out studio, the same could be produced with a window, tracing paper or a white bed sheet, and a pile of black fabric. Even a t-shirt will do the job. 

The video focuses on how the inverse square law is applied to this visual idea. Once you have your head around that, the rest of it is pretty simple. The choice of props, styling, and backgrounds is also incredibly important. Applying a look to any old image doesn’t really work. The subject, composition, props and style of the image all need to tie in together. So with pumpkin picking being the new trend over here, I popped over to the local grocery store and purchased a pile of pumpkins to practice on. 

If this were a portrait, you might look for a subject with the right complexion, hair color, and then dress them in appropriate colors to mimic what I did, and of course there are thousands of variations of this too. 

If you want to go light and airy, you basically invert the procedure. The light moves further away, the black fabric turns to white and the props take a shift to lighter hues. 

Scott Choucino's picture

Food Photographer from the UK. Not at all tech savvy and knows very little about gear news and rumours.

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I'm genuinely curious; do you use the phrases "dark moody" and "light and airy" because most people no longer know the meaning of "low key" and "high key"?

Good question. I chose my wording based on who I think the content is for. So in this instance I assume someone wouldn't know what high key is if they needed to know how to achieve it. So a mix of whats accessible and also SEO considerations.

Although, in this instance, I would say dark and moody rather than low key as I talk to non photographers more than I talk to photographers and I think its the phrase that would best describe it, although this isn't the rational here.

"Let's jump into this" at 8:23