Mastering the Art of Capturing and Editing Dark & Moody Portraits

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The moody, dark photography aims to convey intense emotions through the use of powerful imagery. This genre can be used to create compelling and thought-provoking portraits that evoke an emotional response from the viewer. 

While the genre focuses on portraying a gloomy mood, it is not limited to melancholy subjects. In addition, creating somber portraits doesn't necessarily require a great deal of effort, making it accessible to photographers of all skill levels.

Today we're going to tell you how to photograph and edit stunning moody shots. This is exactly what you need to diversify your portfolio and learn new techniques.

Let's just say that much of your success will depend on proper post-processing, so you need to choose the best software. If you haven't found the best online photo editor yet, you should try one from Skylum developer.

The main features of dark & moody photos

Such portraits are characterized by their evocative and emotional nature.

Mastering the Art of Capturing and Editing Dark & Moody Portraits

You've probably seen a lot of dark and moody presets for Luminar Neo or Lightroom, so you know what we're talking about. There are other characteristics that define this style:

  • All photos typically feature low-key lighting, deep shadows, and muted tones, with an emphasis on creating a somber, introspective atmosphere.
  • The subjects of these portraits are often portrayed in a serious or contemplative mood, with an emphasis on conveying their emotions and inner thoughts.
  • Moody and dark portraits can be created in a variety of styles, from naturalistic to stylized, and can use a variety of photographic techniques to create their distinctive look and feel.

Ultimately, what defines moody and dark portraits is their ability to create an emotional connection with the viewer. By the way, even a photo of a smiling person can be transformed into a moody image through the use of lighting, framing, and angles.

By making subtle adjustments to each of these elements, you can add depth and meaning to your picture and create an emotional connection with your audience.

A crucial aspect of this genre of photography is a color correction in the best online photo editor, which can help you achieve the desired vibe and atmosphere in your shot.

With careful attention to detail, you can create atmospheric portraits that are both captivating and thought-provoking.

How you can create dark & moody portrait

Unfortunately, using just one preset may not produce the desired result. That's why you need to take a comprehensive approach to photographing a dark and moody portrait. We will give you some great tips to help you achieve the perfect shot.

Telling a story

If you have a passion for writing, you may find it helpful to create short stories or find inspiration in quotes when preparing for a photo session. 

Many mood shots come with a narrative, which can range from a simple theme to a complex piece of prose. Using your writing skills to visualize potential photography scenarios can add depth and richness to your creative process.


The key to creating a dark portrait is soft and directional lighting. Simply use natural light, such as during the golden hour or by using a window. 

Alternatively, artificial lights such as a softbox or a strobe can be added. The key is to avoid harsh and direct light as this will create a different effect.


Consider the framing and composition of your shot to create a dramatic and moody effect.

create dark moody portrait

This might include using a close-up to focus on the subject's face or using negative space to create a sense of emptiness or isolation. If you need to crop your photo for better composition, you can use Skylum's online free photo editor.

Setting and background

The setting can play a key role in creating a dark and moody portrait. Consider using dim, muted, or neutral backgrounds that do not distract from the subject.

You can also incorporate stock photos of grain, scratches, and other textures. This can add a sense of timelessness and character to your images, making them look as if they have been around for many years.


In photo editing, use tools such as contrast, shadows, and exposure to create a dark and moody effect. Experiment with desaturating or toning down colors to create a more muted and dramatic look. 

Also, consider using split toning to add tones to the highlights and shadows. And there is one more thing. Enhance the mood of the portrait with finishing touches such as vignettes or sharpening in the free online photo editor.

Converting to black-and-white

Turning a photograph into black and white can enhance its visual impact, as the absence of color allows for greater emphasis on a model's expression and the overall message of the image. 

Whether you choose to photograph in black and white directly or convert your images in post-processing, both methods present unique challenges and opportunities for growth as a photographer.

By exploring the monochromatic palette, you can develop a deeper understanding of composition, contrast, and the power of visual storytelling.

Make beautiful portraits with dark & moody presets

Ever wanted to give your photos a more dark and atmospheric look? One of the easiest methods is to use Lightroom's presets, which can add a dramatic effect to your shots and make them look like they were taken by a professional.

Now we are talking about predefined settings that can be applied to your images to achieve a specific look or style. There are also a few key points to be made:

  • Today, presets can be created and shared by photographers, designers, and editing enthusiasts who have developed a particular style or aesthetic.
  • All packs are often available for purchase or download and cover a wide range of styles, including vintage, film-inspired, light and airy, dark and moody, and many others.
  • They are compatible with popular editing software such as Lightroom or Luminar Neo. By the way, you can find a lot of creative presets on Skylum's website.

So when you use a preset on an image, it automatically applies a series of adjustments, such as changes to exposure, contrast, saturation, color balance, and other settings that have been preconfigured by the author.

This allows you to quickly and easily achieve a desired look without having to manually adjust each setting individually. Now, let's take a look at some popular options that professional photographers use to create excellent moody and dark portraits.

Film noir

This option adds a cinematic, dark atmosphere to your photos with rich blacks, deep shadows, and muted tones. It's perfect for creating a mysterious and dramatic look. It looks especially good in combination with portraits, so be sure to try it!

Rustic moody

Experience the versatility of moody presets that go beyond darkness! Striking a harmonious balance between shadows and highlights, they effortlessly evoke an enchanting, tranquil, and rustic atmosphere.

So, prepare to be mesmerized by the beautiful transformation this pack brings to your photos, instilling a sense of relaxation and timeless charm!

Midnight blue

This pack enhances blues and adds a cool tone to your images.

make beautiful portraits

It gives a dark, nocturnal feel and works well with portraits taken in urban or landscape settings.

Dark nude

This collection is designed to enhance the warm tones in your photos and give them a darker, more moody aesthetic.

With this collection of 15 presets, available for both desktop and mobile versions of Lightroom, you can effortlessly transform your images while maintaining a balance between darkness and warmth.

Gothic grain

Combines a grainy texture with deep shadows and desaturated tones to give your photos a vintage, film-like quality. A great way to create a moody, atmospheric effect.

Dark aesthetic studio

Developed to maintain a clean and professional look, these presets excel at enhancing photos rich in whites and brightness.

By skillfully reducing exposure, highlighting browns, golds, and skin tones, and seamlessly blending all elements, they effortlessly achieve a stunning, minimalist aesthetic.

Folk scenery

The remarkable color grading introduces gentle darkness with subtle adjustments to softness, shadows, and tones.

The end result is a serene and evocative rendering of natural scenes, creating a soothing and moody atmosphere. Be sure to try this option for outdoor portraits!

Stillness moody

Unlike the traditional dark and muted aesthetic, this pack offers a refreshing approach that exudes mood while maintaining a light and airy feel.

Perfect for a wide range of photographic genres, including well-lit, minimalist portraiture. So, you can experience the transformative power of these presets as they add a vibrant and moody atmosphere to your photos. 


This pack gives your photos a slightly desaturated and faded look, with a hint of sepia. It's excellent for achieving a melancholic and nostalgic atmosphere. This option would really look great with portraits!

Noir moody

This pack unleashes a sophisticated dark aesthetic by reducing exposure, intensifying blacks, shadows, and contrast, and adding a soft fade.

Noir moody

Feel free to use these presets to add a touch of intrigue to your images. Don't hesitate to give them a try and experience the transformative power they bring to your photos!

Noir street

Designed for street photography, this pack gives your images a gritty, urban feel. It emphasizes shadows, adds a slight vignette, and enhances textures for a dramatic effect. 

Moreover, such presets can also work well for some portraits taken in urban environments.

To sum it up

Dark portraiture offers a unique creative outlet for self-expression that may not be available in other genres. By exploring moody subjects, you can create thought-provoking works of art that convey a range of emotions. 

To do this, you'll need to develop basic editing skills and an understanding of light, as well as a keen appreciation for the complexities of human emotion.

About the author 

Peter Keszegh

Most people write this part in the third person but I won't. You're at the right place if you want to start or grow your online business. When I'm not busy scaling up my own or other people' businesses, you'll find me trying out new things and discovering new places. Connect with me on Facebook, just let me know how I can help.

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