Photographers should understand color. While it’s tempting to simply photograph color when you find it, there may be times when you’re shooting a commercial job or approaching a serious fine art project when you want to “design” a photograph. That is, you want to plan how colors work to make the picture stronger. This may include introducing color, asking a model to change the color of her dress or just finding a colorful background.
In order to understand the power of color, you should be familiar with some terms and tools used by illustrators and designers.
Let’s start with the color wheel. This is a great tool for finding analogous colors. These are the steps on the color wheel between any two primary colors. (Think about the blues and greens in a typical Peacock.)
The color wheel is also perfect for finding complimentary colors. Just pick any color on the wheel and then pick the color directly opposite. Those two colors are complimentary.
Hue is another color term photographers should understand. A hue refers to the gradation of color within the visible spectrum, or optical spectrum, of light. While it’s very technical, hue occupies a strong part of the formula used to create RGB values and these are the values used by programs like Photoshop to render color.
So what can you do with color? One of the primary uses of color by photographers is to establish mood. If you want a soothing picture, use a big blue background. If you want to make a bold statement, use the orange sky. Lots of green promotes feelings of renewal or fertility.Another way photographers use color is to draw attention to a specific part of the picture. Place a bright red sun where you want the viewer to look in the photo. Or use similar colors to pull the viewer through the photograph, and use unexpected colors in the foreground to convey movement.
If you want to learn more about how color can impact the design of your photos, pick up any one of a dozen great books on color in your local library or bookstore. Think of it as a powerful tool in your gadget bag.
Perhaps folks could list their favorite resources for this in the comments section.