Last time we discussed the element of line and how it is used to better your photography. This article will cover the element of color.

Color is another way of adding interest and contrast to a photograph. The primary colors of red, blue, and yellow can be mixed together to create secondary and tertiary colors, eventually creating the “color wheel.”

1. Complementary Colors

Colors opposite each other on the color wheel are complementary and work well together. This is why you always see red with green (Christmas), blue with orange (sports team), and yellow with purple (Lakers).

When complementary colors are placed together in a photo, not only do they look good, they also create a great contrast and brighten each other.

Complementary Color Portrait

Complementary colors do not always have to be the perfect hue; sometimes close colors work just as well.

2. Color Intensity

Intensity of colors, either from luminance or saturation helps to guide a viewer’s eye to the right place. Notice in the photograph below how the highlight leads your eye towards the model’s eye, the focal point. The bright blue sweater also wraps around the model’s face, creating a nice frame.

Complementary Color Portrait

The intensities of the blues, oranges, and golds in this photo draw attention to the right places and complement each other.

3. Tints and Shades

Using tints and shades of colors are a great way to make an interesting photograph with fewer colors, leading to simplicity. Tints are lighter versions of a color and shades are darker versions. The below photograph only consists of blue and green, but still appears to have a wide range of colors. The greens go from nearly black to a pale green in the highlights.

Tints and Shades of Color

Tints and shades are used in this photo of water to move the eye around and draw attention to certain areas. The majority of the frame is filled by green, with only some blue, leading to a more simple image.

Here’s a link to the other of the elements – The Elements of Art in Photography.

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