Just looking at certain kinds of photos can make us feel calm and serene. But is there a formula for capturing serenity? What colors, effects and image choices can we use as iPhone photographers to create a peaceful, serene image? In this tutorial you’ll discover specific elements that will help you evoke wonderful serenity in your iPhone photos.
Serene images are simple, soft and balanced. A photo appears serene when it depicts an uncluttered scene and conveys a natural sense of harmony and balance to the viewer.
These eight techniques will help you create images that are calm, peaceful, and serene. Photos like these are guaranteed to evoke a sense of tranquility – something we can all use in our busy lives.
1. Photograph Nature & Landscapes
Natural elements such as flowers, trees and sunsets are soothing to most people. Many of us travel to lakes, oceans and rivers just to experience the tranquility of an afternoon on the water. Any of these locations make great subjects if you want to capture serenity.
To set the scene for a serene nature photo, choose a day when the light is soft, diffused and calm. Next, select a location that includes just a few elements. A simple uncluttered composition can help tell the story and give a sense of place in your nature and landscape photos.
The photo above was taken on a day when clouds diffused the sun’s light. The simple composition features the calm waters of the lake and the mellow colors of the sky. The young couple gazing into the distance helps to create a sense of place and convey the peacefulness of the location.
Water is calming in itself. It’s also a wonderful source of beautiful effects and reflections. If possible, use a water source to mirror the landscape, doubling the effect of peace and calm.
Remember to consider the sky when you take landscape shots. A clear day with harsh sunshine will make your photo more intense and active, while soft clouds will enhance a feeling of calm.
Whether the clouds are rolling gently by or you’re able to capture the soft colors of a sunset, photographing a cloudy sky is a simple way to create serenity.
In the photo below, the clouds look so light and fluffy that they even lend a gentleness to this architectural photo.
2. Evoke Serenity With Simple Silhouettes
The simple composition of a silhouette creates visual calm. In this photograph, the trees are outlined against the morning sun to create a peaceful silhouette.
The basic rule for creating silhouettes is to place your subject in front of a light source, such as the sun. After tapping to set focus on your subject, swipe down on the screen to reduce exposure so that the subject appears as a dark silhouette.
To be effective, silhouettes must be photographed against a simple background. This allows the viewer to easily see the shape of your subject.
3. Surround Your Subject With Negative Space
Negative space is the area that surrounds your subject or focal point. It’s what we consider the background of the photo. Applying negative space is the art of consciously using the background to isolate and highlight the subject.
It gives your subject breathing room, creating an uncluttered photo with a minimalistic style. All of these elements make negative space a terrific tool for evoking a feeling of serenity.
The photo above combines negative space, simple composition, and mellow tones to elicit a sense of calm.
4. Make The Most Of Golden Hour
The golden hour magically creates a serene mood. The golden hour is the first hour of light after sunrise and the last hour of light before sunset.
Photos shot outdoors during this time have a naturally warm and peaceful glow. Shoot photos during the golden hour to create soft, dimensional photos without the need of a filter or post-processing edits.
This photo was taken at the beach right before sunset. Notice the gentle glow that the sun casts on the sand and catamarans.
5. Create A Shallow Depth Of Field
Depth of field refers to the range of sharp focus in a photograph. When you have a shallow depth of field, it means that your subject is in focus but everything around it is blurred and therefore softened. This technique simplifies your image and thus can add to the serenity of your photo.
In the photo above, the flower is in sharp focus. The leaves and stems in the background are blurred. The resulting image allows the viewer to focus only on the subject, creating a calm, uncluttered composition.
To create a shallow depth of field, get nice and close to your subject, then tap to focus on the part of the subject you want sharp. The rest of the background will appear blurred.
To blur the background even more, use the Tilt-Shift function in an editing app such as Snapseed or Instagram. This function allows you to select an area of focus and intensify the blur in other parts of the photo.
6. Capture Similar Colors
Some colors and color combinations can be intense and harsh. Bright reds and clashing colors evoke strong emotions. But there are several harmonious color schemes that will help create a serene photo.
One way to create color harmony is to photograph subjects that are similar in hue. These are called analogous colors and they’re often found in nature.
Think of the different shades of autumn leaves or a sunset. Because each color in an analogous color scheme is so similar, they blend well together. This minimal contrast and smooth transition gives the viewer a sense of comfort and balance.
On the color wheel, green and blue are next to each other so this photo featuring green grass with blue water and sky presents a peaceful combination of analogous colors.
7. Create Cool Colored Compositions
Colors can also be classified as warm or cool. Warm colors are those like red, orange and yellow, while cool colors are green, blue and purple. This photo of ducks on the lake showcases several cool shades of blue.
Warm and cool tones convey different emotions and perceptions to the viewer. Warm colors are energizing, whereas cool colors tend to be soothing and calming.
If you’re unable to find cool colors in nature, you can easily add a filter to your photo to make a temperature adjustment. In this case, a bright summer sunset was made cooler with the use of a photo editing filter.
8. Experiment With Soft Black & White Filters
One color scheme that you may not have considered for serene photos is black and white.
There are two main black and white photography styles that iPhone photographers tend to gravitate toward.
There’s the style that’s dark and deep, conveying a stronger mood and relying more on contrasts between white and black, as shown in the image below.
And there’s a lighter style which includes more gray tones with fewer highlights and shadows, as shown in the photo below. This style works well for conveying a peaceful, tranquil atmosphere.
To create this softer black and white edit, the image was processed using more gray tones and less contrast.
Now that you’ve learned some ways to capture serenity in your iPhone photos, try putting some of these elements into action.
Choose subjects that evoke a sense of calm, such as water, natural elements or soft clouds. Keep your composition simple and uncluttered. Choose mellow, analogous or cool colors.
And remember that editing tools such as filters, black and white, and tilt-shift, can help you enhance the feeling of serenity you’re working to create.