Color Challenge Tips

Color can create harmony, emotion, and mood in your photographs. Here are some tips to help you use color to make your statement.

Create Harmony with One Color

Want someone to really study your photograph? Harmonious colors invite us to look closer. Choose one color and take a photograph where everything (or almost everything) is a shade of that color.

Photograph by @Cassidy

Photograph by @Cassidy

Create POP! with Opposite Colors

Opposite or complementary colors sit across from each other on the color wheel and create dynamic images when used together. Try making a photo using red/green, blue/orange, or yellow/purple. Be aware that warm colors, like red and orange, are “advancing” colors, that seem to come forward in a photo. Blues and greens are “receding” colors and tend to work well for backgrounds. To make your subject stand out more, place a warm-colored subject against a cool-colored background.

Performance, 1985, Jo Ann Callis. The J. Paul Getty Museum. © Jo Ann Callis

Performance, 1985, Jo Ann Callis. The J. Paul Getty Museum. © Jo Ann Callis

Evoke Emotion

What emotion would you like to evoke with your picture? Color saturation (that is, muted versus bright color) can create different feelings. A photograph with lower saturation makes a soft, dreamy image. A photograph with higher saturation evokes excitement and optimism. Many phones and cameras have adjustments for color saturation.

Photographs by @Arely

Photographs by @Arely

Black and White Builds Texture

Removing the color from an image showcases its textures and lighting. Black and white photographs often look bolder and more graphic than color photographs. Experiment with the black and white setting on your phone or camera, but also try shooting in color first and then changing the photo to the black and white filter. While the black and white setting might be best for creating high contrast, shooting in color first and then changing to black and white can create more nuanced images.

Photograph by @Grace

Photograph by @Grace

Create Mood with Colored Lighting

Experiment with colored light to create mood in your photographs. Hold a piece of colored plastic wrap in front of a flashlight or lampshade, being careful it doesn’t get too hot. Try different colors until you achieve the mood you want to create. For a serene, calm mood, experiment with blues and greens. For a bold, cheerful mood, try yellows, pinks, and reds.

Photograph by @Miabella

Photograph by @Miabella

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