It’s quite an extraordinary thing, colour. It can enhance or diminish emotion in a digital photo. It’s really that powerful. Yet working with colour, it can assist the photographer to emphasise, dramatise or detract from a certain feeling in a digital photograph. Its funny that colour can impact our senses to such a degree. When there is the absence or presence of certain colours we can feel a certain level and depth of emotion.
So how can we add drama to photos by using colour? Well the first thing to understand about colour is what it does to our senses as I have just briefly mentioned. To understand what impact colour has on us, we need to look at a digital photo and look at what each colour means.
For example think of a photo that has lots of yellow in it. A photo with a colour like this reflects energy, a sense of optimism, extroversion. The same goes for red, which is quite an intense colour if used as the main subject colour. Red can have an impact especially if its against a contrasting colour, which we’ll get into in a moment. These warm colours such as yellows, oranges, reds, etc have a strong photographic presence. In other words it’s kind of hard to ignore them.
Now let’s take a look at the other side of the scale; the cooler, more introverted colours. Colours that are emotionally quieter are blues, purples and greens. These colours tend to be a little less energetic but don’t be fooled into thinking they are any less passionate as the bold reds. These introverted colours tend to offer us a depth, visually, that we would not get from the warmer colours.
“That’s all very nice” you say, “but how can you bring this altogether to create dynamic colour in a digital photo?” Well first of all you can improve your colour skills by having a look at a colour chart to tell you what colours work together really well and what clashes. In my book “Digital Photography Success” I’ve explained about the magic of bringing colour together and what a dynamic impact that creating colours, united well, can have.
Let’s take for example your blues and yellows. Completely opposite but they work together beautifully. Here’s a quick snap I took at Stradbroke Island (Queensland, Australia). I wanted to capture the enticing contrasts of blue and yellow on a natural background.
So lets look closer at what colours work together well so you can improve your digital photography.
You’ll notice that all the basic colours are there. And what works really well are the opposing colours, the blues and yellows. They are almost opposites on a colour wheel. In fact in the picture, visually they are opposite. Colours that have this opposing nature tend to work together so well that we can’t help but be captivated by the contrast. So as a big hint from me, look for these opposing values in colour and you’ll find you have a lot of brilliance in your colours in your digital photography.
Now with portrait photography this is going to change again. Peoples “colours” vary according to skin tones. For example, you may be photographing someone with blonde hair, very fair skin and green eyes. This means that people with that colouring look best in earthy colours, pinks, greens, browns etc. Whereas someone else may have blue eyes and dark brown hair and a medium skin tone. So if you are taking some one’s picture, it is very important to encourage them to wear something that compliments their skin tone.
Once again, colour can play a huge part in your photography.
Look at colour wheels, look at skin tones and charts and really examine colours that can work well together and what don’t.