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Using Colour in Photography

by Photoh (follow)
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Colour is obviously an important part of the photos we take, but how often do you really stop and take notice of the colours you are placing in the frame? Or how they actually affect the outcome of the shot?



Selective colour photography how to tips


Colour Connotations
Each colour can have different connotations that can be used to tell a story or convey a message or emotion. Some of the most basic ones are:

Red


Selective colour photography how to tips



Selective colour photography how to tips

Common connotations: love / anger / danger

Red is one of the most eye-catching colours, and is effective for drawing someone's eye to a particular object or part of your photo. Think about how we use red in everyday life, such as at stop signs, on fire equipment and for occasions such as Valentines Day and Christmas.
It's such a strong shade that can easily overpower other hues and shades you place in a photo, but hugely effective when used thoughtfully.

Yellow


Selective colour photography how to tips



Selective colour photography how to tips

Common connotations: happy / summer / warm

Yellow is the go-to colour when you want to inject some warmth and an uplifting feel to your shot. Think about the rich golden tones of yellow Autumnal leaves, or the bold yellows of sunflowers.

Green


Selective colour photography how to tips



Selective colour photography how to tips

Common connotations: nature / fresh / well-being

The phrase 'be green!' conjures up ideas about caring for the environment and looking after nature. You can use green as the dominant colour in a photo to create a sense of a fresh or natural scene. It is also a very calming colour.
It's also interesting to think about how we view the colours red and green as opposites: stop and go on a traffic light.

Blue


Selective colour photography how to tips



Selective colour photography how to tips

Common connotations: cold / lonely / sad

Associated with the sky and sea, blue can be a very calming colour, and used to set a tranquil and quiet scene. It can also be used to show coldness and winter.
Think about how you can use the phrase 'feeling blue' to show sadness or a lonely feeling in a photo too.


Colour Placement
Where you place a chosen colour in a composition can affect how much or little the viewer will read from it, and how effective it will be as a shot.

For example, let's head to London where the colour red is found all over the city, from the double decker buses to the phone boxes.



Selective colour photography how to tips

Which image contains the red bus that stands out the most?
Most probably the image on the right, as it places the bus on it's own near the foreground, and uses the contrasting blue sky and desaturated background to bring out the red tones.

Being mindful of what other objects and colours are around your chosen subject can help you create the strongest composition.



Selective colour photography how to tips

The image on the left ensures that all your focus is kept on the red uniformed Queen's Guard, whereas the guard in the image on the right is a little lost amongst the wide shot.

You can highlight a single colour by placing it against another coloured background. Opposite colours work well for this, as they provide contrast. So for example: red & green, blue & orange, yellow & purple.

Red baubles on a green Christmas tree is a good example of this, as well as the two photos below.





Selective Colour Photography Editing
Picking out objects to leave in colour and then desaturating the rest of the photo can be a good way of using selective colour.

This generally works best when a bold colour - such as red, yellow or blue - is used, for just one or two prominent things in the frame.

It should appear obvious why you have chosen the particular object to keep in colour, and not just a random selection. Maybe you want to highlight the colours of graffiti against a dull, grey cityscape? A single, coloured flower or maybe a bright coloured car heading down an otherwise neutral street.



Selective colour photography how to tips



Selective colour photography how to tips



Selective colour photography how to tips



Selective colour photography how to tips


These are super simple to create (especially with dedicated phone apps these days!) so have a go and see what you can come up with.

Colours are such a powerful tool for you to use in photography, and can create endless opportunities to emphasise, manipulate and get creative with your ideas.

Share your best shots with us in your local photography Facebook group:

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Selective colour photography how to tips


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