back of a man standing in fog Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Moody Pictures with Dark Aesthetic: 8 Workable Tips and LightroomTutorial

January 3, 2023

As a photographer, you may look forward to creating moody pictures with a dark aesthetic. This can be a great way to evoke emotion in your viewers and set your work apart from the rest.

Are you intrigued and want to know more? Here are some tips and tutorials that you may need to create stunning images with a dark vibe.

Tips to Get Moody Dark Aesthetic Pictures

1. Shoot in Low, Natural Light

Shooting in low, natural light is a popular tip for achieving a moody dark aesthetic in photography. The technique uses natural light sources such as ambient window light, moonlight, or streetlights to create a soft, muted look.

It works especially well for portraits and landscapes. The low light also adds depth to the images, as shadows and highlights are exaggerated.

2. Create Contrast on Your Subject

You can create various moods by playing with the light in your scene. The key is to use contrast to highlight the dark parts of your scene, and draw attention to the shadows.

a man holding burning match near wooden stairs

Photo by Matt Antonioli on Unsplash

One way to create contrast is to use high and low-key lighting. High-key lighting is bright and evenly distributed, usually from multiple sources. Low-key lighting is darker, more directional, and usually from a single source. Combining these two types of lighting allows you to create a dramatic look with a wide range of tones and shades.

You can also create contrast by using different colors and tones. You can combine bright and dark colors or muted tones to create a moody atmosphere. For example, you can use warm tones like yellow, orange, and red.

3. Check on Camera Settings and Shooting Mode

You can do this by increasing the ISO, which will make the image brighter, and decreasing the aperture value, which will make the image darker. If possible, use a tripod to minimize camera shake and blur.

The next step is to adjust the shooting mode. To get a dark aesthetic, use a low shutter speed. This will help you capture movement and create a sense of mystery and moodiness.

4. Underexpose the Shoot on Your Camera

purple flower in leaves with dark light

Photo by Shyam on Unsplash

Underexposing a photo means taking a photo with too little light. The primary benefit of underexposing a photo is to create contrast and shadows that are darker than the actual subject. This can help to make the subject stand out from the background and create a more dramatic effect.

5. Use a Colder White Balance

By changing the white balance to a colder setting, you can create a darker and more moody atmosphere in your photos.

The cooler setting will reduce the number of warm tones in the photo, such as yellow and orange, and increase the amount of blue and green tones. This will give the photo a much darker look. The cool tones also help to bring out any details in the shadows.

6. Desaturate the Images

It is the process of reducing the saturation of the colors in an image, making them appear more muted and subdued.

Desaturation can be achieved through digital and analog. In digital photography, desaturation can be done using photo editing software such as Photoshop. It is a simple process of reducing the saturation of the colors in the image. You can do this by reducing the saturation of individual colors or changing the overall saturation of the entire image.

lighting ancient lamp on desk with books

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

In analog photography, desaturation can be achieved by combining filters, such as a yellow or red filter. These filters will block certain light colors, resulting in a desaturated image. Another technique is to use a film with a low ISO rating, as this will produce more muted tones.

7. Create an Abstract Silhouette

They are created by taking a picture of a subject against a dark background and then converting it into a silhouette. This is by removing or blurring the details and making the image look more abstract.

If a light background is used, the silhouette will be too faint and not have the desired effect. Additionally, when taking the picture, ensure to get as close as possible to the subject and avoid taking pictures from far away.

8. Use a Large Aperture to Create Softness

The large aperture will allow more light to enter the camera, creating a softer look. This is because, with a larger aperture, the depth of field will be shallower, meaning the background will be out of focus, and the focus will be on the subject. This will create an attractive and dreamy effect, giving your picture a unique and distinctive look.

Tutorial to Edit Dark Aesthetic in Lightroom

Step 1: Bring Down the Exposure

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

To start, decrease the exposure by how much  depends  on how dark your image is. A two stop reduction will work well.

Step 2: Desaturation of All Colors

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

You will desaturate all of the colors in the image because this technique has a tendency to over-saturate colors. Once exposed, you can bring back specific colors to where you need them.

Step 3: Turning on Highlight Clipping

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

Add some hazel and dreamy quality to the trees by decreasing dehaze and clarity, then increasing exposure.

This will indicate how far you should move the white sliders. Around 80 is perfect.

Step 4: Dehazing

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

Dehaze up to about 25, then add a touch of clarity and some negative texture with the basic sliders.

Step 5: Introducing Colors In a Controlled Way

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

The dark tone look is achieved by introducing colors in a controlled manner. You will reduce the reds to a negative value, a little muted around negative 20. Orange will restore the colors in the sand and skin tone in the photograph. When creating dark-tone images, you'll want to keep yellow and green to a minimum.

Reduce the saturation of the foliage and grass because they will look much better desaturated. Because the equal will have no effect, leave it at 0. Because some blues on the scoreboard in the image increase the blues.

Step 6: Luminance of the Colors

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

Reds and oranges will be reduced, especially in the sand. The sand will appear darker and moodier. Acqua will bring up the number seven jersey, as well as some blues and purples. Increase the amount.

Step 7: Hues

The orange slider will be adjusted slightly to bring more copper into the sand.

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

Step 8:Color Grading

This is a crucial aspect of dark-tone images. Some blues in the shadows and some warmer tones in the highlights help to cool things down.

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

Reduce exposure and add a Linear vignette gradient to the foreground.

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

Bringing out more detail in the tree in this image will complement the autumnal oranges that are present. As a result, boost the whites and shadows.

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

Add some hazel and dreamy quality to the trees by decreasing dehaze and clarity, then increasing exposure.

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures

Step 9:Fading The Blacks

This can be accomplished by adding a few control points to the tone curve and bringing up the image's darkest areas. The control point aids in the maintenance and straightening of the control curve line.

Lightroom tutorial processiong for dark moody pictures


It is important to remember to be creative and look for different angles and lighting techniques. Furthermore, understanding the editing tools and techniques available can help enhance the overall aesthetic and create an image that stands out. By following the tips and tutorials provided, everyone can become a master of dark aesthetic photography.

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