Dramatic Photography: 5 Tricks of the Trade

Whether you take portraits, landscapes, product shots, architectural photos, or something else, adding a little drama to your photos can take your photography to the next level. Think about what will catch someone’s eye right away when you are imagining how to capture your subject in a dramatic way.

Here are five dramatic photography tricks to add drama and intrigue to your images.

A strong backlight creates a sharp silhouette for this couple

A strong backlight creates a sharp silhouette for this couple

High dynamic range and saturation

Everybody takes photos, even if just with their phone, so everybody knows what to expect out of a photo. It’s rare for the average person to take a photo and be surprised at the way the light and colors are recorded. So, one way to get someone’s attention is to make the light and colors look unique and outstanding by adjusting the dynamic range and saturation.

Using HDR (high dynamic range) software, we can add in more detail to the shadow and highlight areas. This is more like our eyes would see it than a typical camera would capture it. This additional range of tone makes an image more eye-catching and dramatic. Adjusting the saturation is another way to add visual interest. Adding in deeper colors or filtering out certain colors by saturating or desaturating is a great way to make your photos look more surreal and dramatic.

HDR software makes this regular seascape look extremely moody

HDR software makes this regular seascape look extremely moody.


Placing a light behind your subject can drastically change the mood of a photo. It can look scary. It can look imposing. It can look mysterious. It can look glorious. Depending on the quality of light and the combination of other lights you can get very different looks. But with a strong backlight, all of the looks are dramatic. In addition, the backlight can add in interesting shadows and accentuate the outline or create a strong silhouette.

Emotive/unusual subjects

Choosing your subject as a lot to do with the drama in a photo. Someone who is naturally expressive, like an actor or actress, or someone in a situation of extreme joy or pain, or anywhere they can’t contain their emotion, can make for a great subject. The raw emotions can come through in your photos, allows viewers to relate, and create a sense of something dramatic. Using unusual subjects, or ones that viewers can’t relate to at all can also be dramatic. A sense of shock will certainly add some drama!


Try taking a different perspective. If you want to show how large something is, consider shooting it from down on the ground. Or for something small, shoot it from above. Walk around, take the long way, and explore. Taking the same photo as every other photographer rarely adds a dramatic flair to your images. Taking something unique from a unique perspective will.

Motion changes the feel of this photo cascading river photo

Motion changes the feel of this photo

Show motion / Long exposures

Adding in motion can bring drama to your photos. The typical image freezes the motion. The unusual and interesting photo gives your viewer a sense of motion. This may mean your photo of a building has people walking and cars whizzing by. Or your photo of kids has a motion blurred background to show their movement. Or your waterfall shot shows the water moving.

These types of shots require either a slow shutter speed, quickly panning the camera, or both. If you use a slow shutter speed to show motion, it’s helpful to put the camera on a tripod to eliminate any shakiness that may come from holding it. If you pan the camera (up and down or side to side) it’s also helpful to have a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, you must keep the subject in the same part of the frame as you are panning, to ensure they stay sharp.

How do you like to add drama to your photos? What are the easiest ways?

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