Color and Photography

We live, eat, sleep, work, and relax in color. Our worlds are profoundly influenced by color. We feel in color and experience life in color. So, we need to use color to the best of our ability and create images reflecting this. Understanding and controlling color is fundamental as you learn digital photography.

colour in photography

“Blue Mask” captured by Matt Marquez

1. Reflect mood with color

We are emotional creatures and feel in color. Black with rage, green with envy, blue from the cold, white as a sheet and we have golden memories. Color reflects our memories as with orange sunsets and cool blue mornings. Green represents growth and health while red is aggressive and full of energy. Try to capture mood in your images by using color.

2. Make color your subject

Choose a color and shoot it by making it the dominant subject. Isolate that brightly painted door or window. Choose a subject with a simple design or shape but with bold colors on a neutral background for dramatic effect.

3. Create harmony

Choose colors that lie next to each other on the color wheel and shoot them together. Nature is full of this harmony with greens and yellows creating wonderfully complimentary images. Autumn is a great time to shoot color harmony with all the yellows, browns and oranges that dominate autumn scenes.

colourful insect

“Thirsty” captured by Debra Vanderlaan

4. Photograph muted colors

This works especially well where there are high contrast scenes as these lend themselves to muted color. This is more monochromatic where there appear only to be two colors in the scene that don’t dominate. Use soft or diffused light that isn’t harsh. Overcast days are great for shooting muted colors.

5. Shoot contrasting colors

Colors that are opposite each other on the color spectrum wheel are called contrasting and result in amazing shots. Shooting that bright red flower against a green results in an amazing image. This makes the colors appear bolder and more saturated and lifts the subject off the background.

contrasting color red on green

“Pomme !” captured by ClĂ©ment Belleudy

6. Use accents

Choosing a scene that is quite monochromatic and then isolating a splash of color creates a dynamic image. Almost as if you have removed all the color except for the subject. Subjects like a bright umbrella or flower against a simple background really work.

7. Emphasize patterns with color

Repetitive shapes shot in color make the scene dynamic. Straight lines of red coated soldiers make dramatic images that appear to add movement to the photo. By cropping the photo you can create an image made up solely of colorful patterns.

Using color will always add a dynamic element to your images so make use of it often. Allow it to dominate and hit you in the face.

Happy shooting!

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography. He has produced a program of learner-based training using outcomes based education.

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One response to “Color and Photography”

  1. Samantha Rekemel says:

    Thanx for the tips…..they really help!…im basically a beginner…….i absolutely love photography…..this year I competed in landscape photography….i didnt win anything but I got great comments from the judges… a self taught photographer….i read books about photography and search for tips online….im thinking about competing next year….i could use some PRO advice….

    Thanks again!

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