Colour projects to try with your camera

Using colour effectively in photography is one of the pillars of good composition.

As with everything creative it is part theory and part personal preference.

The theory

A few simple guidelines will get you started:

1. Red draws the eye

Any specs of red in the background of your shot will draw the viewers eye, and are usually to be avoided.

2. Limited palette

If you can restrict your palette to a few colours, you will often find your images are stronger and more eye-catching. Design Seeds is a beautiful website to browse for inspiration:

3. Complementary colours

If you pair one colour with its opposite on the colour wheel (known as its complementary colour), the first colour will “pop” off the page more than if it is with analagous colours or unrelated colours. Adobe have a very useful colour wheel tool. Pick your first colour and then tick the “complementary” box on the left hand side to find its exact opposite:

4. The emotion behind different colours

Using colour is a short-cut to access your viewer’s emotional response to your image. Yellows and oranges are always warmer and more inviting than colder blues. Red is an angry, strong colour where green is calmer and more neutral.

The personal preference

Never mind what the theory is – what do YOU want to do with colour in your photography? Here are some ideas to help you get started:

1. Colour collection

Use your phone for convenience and spend a day or a week collecting as many instances of a single colour that you can find.

2. Emotion

Use colour deliberately to evoke a particular response. See if you can make someone feel cold with a bluer image, or peaceful with a green one.

3. What’s your favourite colour?

Whatever colour is your favourite, have you ever thought about why? To push yourself out of your comfort zone, try shooting your least favourite colour for a time. And then have fun by using your all-time favourite colour to create some new images.


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Header image Nathan Duck, with permission