Taking photos in color is easy, but taking color photographs with a wow-factor requires a little thought. It is vital to be aware just how powerful color can be in an image and how you can use this to your advantage. Too many different bold colors will invariably produce a confusing and unsatisfying image. Ensure that the hues you are including in your photograph do not compete with each other for attention, but contribute to a well balanced composition.
Tips to Make the Most of Color
- Look for a Dominant Color: Colorful scenes are usually the ones that inspire photographers to grab their cameras, yet they are often the least likely to result in striking images unless considerable care is taken in the composition. Too many vivid and bright colors will compete for the attention of the viewer and make it difficult to find a focus point. One way of giving a color photograph a bold, eye-catching quality is to select a subject in which one particular hue completely dominates the scene. This can be achieved by a careful choice of viewpoint, and the way in which the image is framed. The result can be even more spectacular if the other colors in the image are either quite subdued or create a pleasing contrast.
- Use Color Contrast: Bold, eye-catching pictures can be almost guaranteed if you know how to make good use of contrasting colors. The most striking effect will be created when just two colors from well separated areas of the color spectrum are included in the image, such as red against green, or orange against purple. The use of a color wheel can help you understand the relationship between complementary and contrasting colors. As a general rule, the simplest combinations are the strongest, and the more saturated the colors are, the more eye-catching the result will be.
- Keep it Simple: If there’s a good general rule to follow in photography it is to keep it simple, and this is especially true when working in color. An image that includes only the essential elements of the scene will invariably have more impact than a complex image with too much detail. Always identify the element in the scene that appeals most strongly to you within the subject, and then consider which of the surrounding details you need to include.
- Create Mood with Color: One of the most elusive qualities to capture is that of mood or atmosphere. Keep in mind how the viewer responds emotionally to color. Blues and greens evoke a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere, while orange and yellow might create an upbeat, happy feeling. Bright, saturated colors suggest a vigorous and energetic atmosphere, and dark and muted colors suggest a more somber and introspective response from the viewer.
- Experiment with Filters: If you want to make the most of color in your images, play with filters. There are a variety of colored filters on the market that will give an edge to your images. Try fitting a polarizer to the lens to enhance a blue sky and make the clouds stand out more. You can also use filters to cut down on reflections in glass and water.
- Master White Balance: If color plays an important part in your composition, then you should take the trouble to make sure that the colors are accurate by taking control of the white balance setting. When the white balance is set to Automatic, the camera measures the color temperature of the light and then sets the white balance to produce a neutral result. However, sometimes you don’t want a neutral color balance. Perhaps you want your scenery to have a golden glow when you photograph it at sunset. In this case, you could set the white balance to Daylight or Cloudy for a warmer feel.
- Learn How to Boost Color in Post-Production: If your images aren’t as eye-pleasing as you had hoped, make sure you know how to boost color in the digital darkroom. Whether you want a specific color to leap out or blend in, the Hue/Saturation Tool will help you to get the effect you want. You often don’t need much; just increase the Saturation slider until the image looks nicely pumped up. Be conservative. Always keep in mind that excessive editing will lead to image degradation in the form of noise and posterization, where color transition appears in abrupt steps rather than a smooth flow from one tone to another.
- Calibrate Your Computer Monitor: All computer monitors display variations in color, contrast, and brightness. Make sure your monitor is properly calibrated so that the colors you see on your screen are the colors you get when printing your photographs. Some monitors come with integrated calibration systems, but if yours doesn’t, you may want to think about investing in a calibration tool.
About the Author
Mia Rose (basic-photography-tips dot com) is a freelance photographer residing in Queensland, Australia.
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