From snapshots to great shots: the power of colour

How you use colour in an image can make the difference between a “so what” snapshot and a powerful image that provokes a reaction in the viewer. Try to take images where the colour(s) is (are) the element that makes them work so well. Bear the following in mind:

  • THE COLOUR WHEEL. Colours opposite each other on the colour wheel contrast and create drama and conflict. Colours close to each other harmonise and feel soothing. If the theory of colour interests you, Google it and learn how to use it more effectively in your photography. Look at other people’s images and ask yourself why the colours work so well.
  • QUALITY OF LIGHT influences colourColours are warmer in the early morning / evening, whereas they appear cooler towards midday. In open shade (in the shade outdoors or on a cloudy overcast day) colours are more saturated and rich than in bright sunlight. 
  • Warm colours are said to ADVANCE – they stand out and demand attention, even if they only occupy a small area of the shot. Cooler colours RECEDE, making them great as background colours, helping to make other colours stand out.
  • Colour is closely linked to EMOTIONS and they can be used to make us feel a certain way. Yellows, oranges, pinks are warm and soothing, especially in softer tones, but they can seem energetic and awakening if they are more vibrant. Colder colours – blues, greys, some shades of green can conjure emotions of melancholy, solitude.
  • Use strongly CONTRASTING colours to create abstract images – filling the frame and shooting close works well with this type of shot.
  • MONOCHROME: this is when a scene or shot consists of a single colour or different shades and tones of the same colour. Monochrome images can produce very atmospheric shots.
  • COMPOSITION: Remember the other rules of composition and use them at the same time: fill the frame, rule of thirds, leading lines, texture, balance.
  • EDITING: How you edit an image can dramatically enhance how the colour works so try out different filters, increase or reduce the saturation etc.

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