Techniques can bring on drama, mystery to photographs


One of the most frequently asked questions in my digital photography classes at Walla Walla Community College is, “How can I make my pictures look better?”

Inherent in this question is not only, “how can I get my friends to look at my pictures, but also remember them.” This may seem a bit strange since every device we have today from iPhone, iPad, Point & Shoot, and DSLR all can take good pictures and can get seen around the world instantly.

Just stop and think about it, how many pictures can you remember from this morning’s Facebook or other social media scans?

One of the reasons that we have difficulty remembering many pictures today is the fact that the daily Facebook uploads are 300 million pictures which amounts to 3,000 pictures a second flying into our electronic devices.

With this kind of visual imagery bombarding us there is no doubt students are asking for better looking pictures to get attention!

So how can this be accomplished?

Several techniques can be applied to set yourself apart and add some drama and mystery:

The color red

I have several photographer friends who carry with them a red jacket, red piece of fruit, or a miniature item such as a toy just to add to their pictures, and in some cases it may be very subtle in the background, or it may be the main subject like a macro picture of a cherry.

The color red really stands out with the digital camera sensors and can quickly capture the eye’s attention.

Silhouette and reflective light

Try some reflective light, to add some drama, emotion, and even change moods.

Look around your home and find a window in a semi-darkened room and have a friend stand sideways to the camera and then take a picture.

The photo should look dark, and if it is not then change to angle of the picture and or scan your in camera custom settings to edit and pick the silhouette setting in the custom settings.

This technique will definitely work with your family or friends who will at least pause to try to identify the person who is now been silhouetted and may look a bit mysterious!

If you want the entire picture to be black and white find the monochrome setting on your camera!

The color blue and dramatic angles

Many of us take pictures of landscapes and recently I had a class photographing horses running in a pasture with clouds in the background.

Even though the horse was dramatic the picture could be enhanced with some mystery by lowering the angle of the camera thus intensifying the blue hues of the sky and drama of the clouds.

Macro and color

Why not surprise your friends and take a few macro, close-up, pictures?

I have found viewers occasionally like to be taken into a subject whether it be a slice of bread, a piece of fruit like a budding blueberry, or ripe red cherry.

To add drama and mystery to your photographs try some of these techniques this summer as many items I have mentioned are in you home and garden, and I am sure the viewers of the social media will remember your work at the end of the day!

Don Fleming teaches digital photography at Walla Walla Community College and can be reached at



campbell_rd says...

Great article, it's nice to see some friendly photo tips. Nicely categorized and thought provoking. I also use the rule of thirds almost without thinking. This means that the main center of attention is one third from the edge, both horizontally and vertically. I can't remember the last time I center and item in the frame.

Does anyone know of any local camera clubs? I'd be interested.

Posted 25 July 2013, 11:50 a.m. Suggest removal

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