How to use visual cues to build on the narrative of your image

Masterful image creators know how to do more than just capture a beautiful looking image, they use the light, colours and composition to help build mood to draw the viewer in and make them feel something. By evoking emotions in your audience you will enrich your visual storytelling and invite the viewer to connect with your narrative on a deeper level. The more your audience can connect with your image the more engaged they will become.

Barbora Kurcova from @herinternest is an expert at creating emotionally charged images and finds new and inventive ways to tell intimate and interesting stories though her photographs. Her images are a wonderful example of which elements can be manipulated within in your image to evoke certain feelings in your viewer. In this post we will discuss how, like Barbora, you can use colours, light, location and your composition to build mood and deepen your visual narrative.

Light and Colour

The way you use light and certain colours in your images can have the greatest effect on the feeling of your viewer. Typically bright light and colours are seen as energising and uplifting, muted colours and low contrast for adding calm and dark tones can inspire mystery, foreboding or sombre feelings.

The colours you use within your composition can have great impact on the emotional response to your image. Many colours have symbolic meaning for example red is often linked to love or romance and the colours of nature can inspire feelings of calm and hopefulness.

The changing colour of light at different times of day can create vastly different feelings in your photo. Golden light from sunrise or sunset can add warmth, happiness and vibrancy to your image whereas the cooler blue light afterwards can make the same setting feel tranquil and serene. You can adjust these colours in your edit or post processing to manipulate the mood you’d like your photo to convey.

Bright well lit subjects can create uplifting feelings of happiness and joy. Outdoor images with an expanse of blue sky can feel whimsical and free-spirited.

Composing an image with darker shadows and less light can feel mysterious, fearful or sad. Increasing the tonal contrast can add dramatic effect whereas low contrast images appear more calm and relaxed.

Location and Composition

When it comes to composing your image, choosing an appropriate location and backdrop of to set your scene is vital to building on the narrative of your photo. Starting with scenery that adds character and the right tone will assist in communicating the appropriate emotions to your viewer.

A busy backdrop can communicate a feeling of liveliness or urgency, capturing movement in your subject matter can add a sense of speed or frivolity. To create the opposite effect and evoke feelings of peacefulness you can use subtle backdrops and compose your images using lots of negative space.

Where you place your subject matter in your composition can also affect the way it is perceived and felt by your audience. Up close can feel more personal and intimate whereas shooting your subject from further away can feel isolated or mysterious.

If you change the angle of your photography you can further amplify these emotions, shooting from underneath can make your subject matter look more empowered and regal and from above can feel vulnerable and meek.

There are many ways that you can enhance your visual storytelling through your photography and this overview is just the beginning. Emotions and responses are felt differently by everyone and you can keep experimenting to discover what resonates best with your audience.

All images in this blog are courtesy of Barbora and the originals are linked and can be viewed on Instagram at @herinternest If you’d like to find out more details about how Barbora takes such beautiful images you can read our guide to Using light to evoke emotion and enhance mood in your images