Effective Use of Color in Photography

The Art of Photography take us on a journey in the evolution of color in modern photography. It showcases some of the works by Ernst Haas, Luigi Ghirri, and Saul Leiter: three pioneers of color film photography with their own distinct styles:

Luigi Ghirri had a unique way of using colors in his photographs. In his photos the colors are never cluttered. Color almost always stands alone or on a very limited color palette.

Painters often use a color palette, which defines the color scheme of an image. This is something most photographers don’t do. Ghirri, however, did.

When photography came about it was all monochrome. Not exactly black and white, as the early photography processes were never truly black and white. Color was introduced in photography much later when glass types came about. However, color was never really taken seriously. During the first part of the century, fine art photography was dominated by black and white.

Ernst Haas

Ernst Haas was one of the first photographers to have been featured by any serious museums. His color photographs were displayed by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the early 1950s.

In all of the works by these photographers what’s important to notice is that they have used color for a purpose. Color in their images isn’t just there in the frame without a reason. It’s there because it serves a purpose.

Ted Forbes also brings into perspective the kind of tools that we digital photographers have at our disposal. This array of tools tends to impact our work and has certainly become a part of our image culture.

Instagram, for example, has made it possible to ‘sweeten’ our images prior to uploading—so much so that almost every photographer is doing it. OK, not everyone—at least not the serious photographer type. But almost everyone else is.

Photography isn’t about color or the absence of it. Neither is it just about the tools that we tend to be so obsessed with. It’s about what we do with those tools and those colors in a scene.

“…I think it is really important, as photographers, not to let the materials necessarily dictate what we’re doing.”

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One response to “Effective Use of Color in Photography”

  1. Wendy says:

    Watching this makes me want to gather my county fair pictures into a book–but all that work, and who would buy it?

    And what frustrates me about all the filters, is that I’m a WYSIWIG shooter, I consider my photos successful when the viewer sees what I saw, but it’s gotten to the point where people EXPECT photos to be enhanced (and tack-sharp)–people pass you over if you’re not “improving” on what was there.

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