Dreamy photographs have diffused light, blurred areas, and soft focus. Photographers use this ethereal look in portraits, especially wedding and fashion portraits, but also landscape pictures. Dreamy photographs express romanticism, nostalgia, transience, serenity, and calm. They enhance the natural beauty and hide skin imperfections or a cluttered background.
You can achieve dreamy photos directly in the camera or through post-processing filters and effects. Use them to enrich the narrative in a visual story, improve composition, or simply create a beautiful picture. Don’t exaggerate though. Keep your compositions clean and clear, natural-looking and artful. Here are the best ways to create a dreamy atmosphere in your pictures.
Use natural light in your favor
If you use natural light, you should know the best times of the day and weather conditions for dreamy pictures. The golden and blue hours are usually preferred because they provide a colorful and soft light. Because of low light intensity and sun position, you can use these moments to shoot portraits with backlighting or directly into the light. Lens flare will only add magic to your composition.
Dreamy photos need soft light so clouds and mist are your best allies. Look for cloudy, foggy days, catch the perfect moment after a summer rain, or create a low-key composition in a freezing winter day. Remember that you want an artful effect and not a perfect exposure and contrast. You want washed-out colors, low tonal contrast, and blurred edges.
Photo by IG: @seteales on Unsplash
Use a shallow depth of field
To blur the background and make your subject pop out, use a shallow depth of field. This means using a large aperture (small f-stops number) and allowing a small amount of light into the camera. Make sure you decrease the shutter speed or increase ISO to have the right exposure. Using telephoto lenses also helps to blur the background.
You can also create a soft foreground by improvising a filter (photographing through sunglasses, a piece of plastic, or glass) or partially obstructing the viewfinder with your fingers or an object. Dreamy photos don’t have to follow the rules. Experiment as much as you like until you achieve the perfect effect.
Photo by Chris Holgersson on Unsplash
Double exposure effect
The double exposure effect allows you to use different exposures for foreground and background and create exquisite compositions. This technique is often used in portraits to suggest a person’s thoughts and dreams. It also allows you to overlay two different images and blend them in various modes, achieving an ethereal effect.
Photo by Gilles Rolland-Monnet on Unsplash
Post-processing: selective blurring and the soft-focus effect
If you didn’t achieve the desired effect on your camera, you can always create it in post-processing. Most photo editors have built-in filters and preset that allows you to transform an image in seconds. You can also blur specific areas of an image, add fog or mist, overlay a texture, or adjust colors, contrast, and brightness as necessary. Make sure you choose a suitable composition because no filter can fix the story of an image.
Effects help you convey a stronger message and improve the artistic qualities of an image. They also prove that, in photography, playing by the rules is important but breaking them is equally rewarding. So give yourself time to practice and try different perspectives and techniques. Most of all find inspiration and have fun and don’t forget to share your Dreamy photographs with us on our Facebook group.
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