Using Color Theory

September 28, 2023  •  Leave a Comment
Using Color Theory

As I prepare to click I often ask myself “should I include that purple flower?  The yellow bush? That red plane?”

 

Ever since Sir Isaac Newton developed the color wheel back in 1666, artists and scientists have been studying the relationships that various colors have on us humans. 

 

Colors can stimulate emotions and using the optimal combinations can help a photographer create a stronger and more pleasing image. Like so many artists, I view the use of color as yet another tool in order to invoke a desired emotion.  For example, when looking at a scene I may want to create a sense of harmony or perhaps evoke a sense of shock. I can accomplish this through composition using natural light and color (see Tips).
 

Thanks to Newton’s mapping of the spectrum of colors into the first color wheel, artists use of the 12 basic colors which are broken down into three combinations: primary, secondary, and tertiary colors. As we delve deeper, we become more aware of their main properties: hue (warm or cool), value (lightness or darkness), and saturation (purity).
So when you shoot, it helps to know basic color theory and to be conscious of how the colors that you see through your lens will reflect the desired feeling once the image is captured and viewed

Tips on Using Color Theory

Analogous 
Selecting a set of colors next to each other on the color wheel like red, orange & yellow or blue & green. Analogous creates a sense of harmony. Without the strong contrast of complementary colors, analogous colors are calming to the eye which is ideal for nature photography. 

Complementary
Selecting two colors on the opposite side of the color wheel like red & green can be quite stunning.  Be careful not to overdo. By this I mean keep the ratio of one color lower than the other.  Use complementary colors in photography to draw attention to a focal point or to accentuate bold colors that you want to stand out.

Monochromatic
Some consider the use of a single color to be rather bland (black and white is a common example) but it can be quite dramatic when using different values of the same color. When visual distraction is removed, there’s a greater degree of concentration on composition or texture.
  
Triadic 
Selecting colors that are equally spaced from one another on the color wheel, like blue, yellow and red can give a stunning effect. A beautiful sunset is a good example. 

Quadratic
These are four colors that create a rectangular shape on the color wheel like blue, green, orange and red. This is also referred to as a double complementary.

Diad
Selecting colors which are separated by two hues of color creates harmonious vibe similar to Analogous tones. 

Keep in mind the Color Theories are guidelines, within the color wheel of each color you have many different hues, values and saturation. This is just a taste of the color theory!  


 



 


 
 
"Maui Dreams"
Triadic - Blue, Yellow, Red/Orange


Analogous 
Selecting a set of colors next to each other on the color wheel like red, orange & yellow or blue & green. Analogous creates a sense of harmony. Without the strong contrast of complementary colors, analogous colors are calming to the eye which is ideal for nature photography. 

Complementary
Selecting two colors on the opposite side of the color wheel like red & green can be quite stunning.  Be careful not to overdo. By this I mean keep the ratio of one color lower than the other.  Use complementary colors in photography to draw attention to a focal point or to accentuate bold colors that you want to stand out.

Monochromatic
Some consider the use of a single color to be rather bland (black and white is a common example) but it can be quite dramatic when using different values of the same color. When visual distraction is removed, there’s a greater degree of concentration on composition or texture.
  
Triadic 
Selecting colors that are equally spaced from one another on the color wheel, like blue, yellow and red can give a stunning effect. A beautiful sunset is a good example. 

Quadratic
These are four colors that create a rectangular shape on the color wheel like blue, green, orange and red. This is also referred to as a double complementary.

Diad
Selecting colors which are separated by two hues of color creates harmonious vibe similar to Analogous tones. 

Keep in mind the Color Theories are guidelines, within the color wheel of each color you have many different hues, values and saturation. This is just a taste of the color theory!  

Keep Shooting!

 


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