Portrait Techniques with a Limited Color Palette

Creativity has no bounds, and as a portrait photographer, you’re not limited by the size of your studio or by the number of colorful backdrops and accessories you own. In this video, Gavin Hoey from Adorama demonstrates how you can create portraits that really pop just by using a limited color palette. He also demonstrates how he turns his grey background into a colorful one using colored gels:

Hoey starts off the session using a blue background with the model styled in a similar colored outfit and accessories. He has his eVOLV 200 set as the key light on the upper left side of the model, and has also set a background light behind the model to add some light to the background. While the power of the key light can be calculated using a light meter, the power of the background light can be determined by trial and error, starting from the lowest power setting and gradually increasing it if needed.

blue palette portrait photography

blue palette portrait

For the second session, Hoey has the model change into a red dress but there’s a problem. Hoey has no background to match the red color of the model. So he uses a grey background instead and puts a red gel over the background light to convert the grey background into red. Pretty neat, right? Again, to determine the power of the background light, he uses trial and error, starting from the lowest power setting and gradually increasing the power.

grey background into red

Hoey uses a colored gel on the background light to make the grey background red.

red palette portrait photography

These are some impressive portraits with strong, popping colors that Hoey has produced using minimum space and a single color palette.

“If you want to create your own punchy color portraits then limiting your color palette is a really good idea. Sometimes less really is more.”

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