Using Colors Effectively in Digital Photography

Whenever I go out on a photo shoot I love to include as much bold as possible. Color is more important to our world than we think and is often taken for granted. Although monochrome photos are great, there is more to color photography than we think. A few techniques mentioned in this article will add a dramatic dimension to your images.

using color in photography tips

“Blue” captured by Anya Kozyreva

As with all photography you must always think before you shoot an image. Take the time to ponder the scene and work out what works in the composition. Look at what colors are available and where they are, how much color to include, and how to use it. By applying a few simple techniques your images will be admired and result in great satisfaction for you.

1. Use a single color

This is a great technique for a bold photograph. By isolating a color or at the very least making it the dominating color you create images that are bold and dramatic. The key to this is finding objects or scenes that have just one color yet make an effective composition. Get in closer to the subject and isolate it from its surroundings to make the color the focal point.

2. Watch the light

When shooting in color just a subtle light change can result in a very different image. A sudden change in cloud cover will enrich the colors and make them appear more saturated. When shooting in the morning or evening they will look warmer, and when the sun is higher they will look cooler. Shooting in bright shade will also make them look richer. So always be aware of the light quality and get to know which times of the day give you the best results.

colorful photography techniques

“Cumalıkızık Houses” captured by Halim TOKEL(VIRBOVCA) Click Image to See More From This Photographer

3. Color saturation

This is how rich or deep the colors appear. Well saturated colors appear bright and make really colorful images, which is what you want to achieve on most occasions. To do this in camera is quite simple, but you need to be careful not to overdo it. By using exposure compensation, you can very slightly underexpose the photo by a third to half a stop. This will increase your saturation. Too much though will make the final image dark and muddy. With digital photography you can also adjust the saturation using the slider in Photoshop.

4. Contrasting colors

By getting to know your color wheel and where the various colors are situated you will see that colors opposite each other are contrasting. When you create a colorful photo, look for colors that are next to each other in the scene that contrast. Be careful that one doesn’t dominate the other; shoot in strong light. You want the colors to capture attention—like a bright red subject on a bright green background.

5. Complementary colors

These colors make each other look good. They lie alongside each other on the color wheel and in a way harmonize. This type of image is very easy on the eye as you will see in a green scene with a strong yellow subject. Try finding different shades of the same color which is basically the dominant color mixing with the color next to it.

6. Colors that clash

These should never be used together—or so the rules say. But, we all like to break the rules, so try it out and see if it works. On some occasions a stunning image may result. Experimenting will always bring surprises, so don’t be afraid to try.

photography color guide

“next to the green mill chicago” captured by andre stoeriko

The world of color is a top source of fantastic images and if you use it as you learn digital photography you will create great images. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas. Break out of the traditional mould and find out what works for you.

About the Author
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography.

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