When you take your shot, you’re conscious of about a million things that will make your up your photograph – lighting, camera settings, props. Of course, there is the weather that always manages to take you by surprise. Another aspect that could make for an interesting photograph is the color palette present in the frame.
Lets face it, the colors in your frame are probably the last thing on your mind. Take a minute to consider how every element in a photograph contributes to the color spectrum. This color spectrum in turn influences your audience. You might not be fully aware of the color palettes but color is the high road to emotional feedback.
We won’t be getting into color theory but we will be exploring the many ways colors affect us. We’re here to appreciate the conscious and subconscious decisions that photographers make and the meanings of some of the colors. Color palettes drawn from photographs reveal a different side to photography but I’ll let you decide for yourself.
Orange is by far not the focal point in this photograph. However, the tiny detail on the subject makes it prominent against the lighter hues. A beautiful mixture of yellow and red, orange contains characteristics of both. It is the color of love, desire, passion and heat. Orange has a youthful energy about it and represents things like vibrancy and enthusiasm. Closely associated with fall, it’s a reminder of the beautiful changes in nature.
Delicate by nature, pink has a definite feminine vibe and charm to it. It’s not a bold color that excites the senses, it is rather a soothing tone with a calming effect. Pink is a symbol of love, romance and tenderness. The different shades of pink have different associations and the one in this photograph is a great example of the diverse spectrum of the color.
One of the dominant colors in nature, brown is humble and lovely in any shade. It is the color of the earth and all things connected to nature. Some may say it is a dull color, but in reality it comes in all shades and hues and reminds us of stability, wholesomeness and humility. In the photograph above, brown can be seen as the main color in almost every household.
Red has about a million qualities and just as many influences. It’s the color of danger, action and adventure. We associate it with bravery, courage and dares. It is the most stimulating color which evokes very strong emotional responses. Being so powerful on it’s own, it should be used sparingly. The little detail in this photograph couldn’t be more perfect. It’s a touch of the unexpected, an attention grabber and a mood setter.
Another popular color that rules over nature is closely associated to all earthy symbols and is the color of growth, harmony and hope. Green has very strong symbolism that can be traced to early associations with rebirth and peace. Some say that it is a color with healing powers and is the most peaceful in the color spectrum. It is also the color that has the most hues, as seen in the photograph. A variant of the shade, Greenery, has been named the color of the year by Pantone.
Purple or violet is not a color we see often in nature. If you’re lucky, the sky might show a glimmer of it. It’s more often associated with royalty, power and wealth because of the rich saturation of the hue. Sometimes it can be calming and humble like in this photograph. The ever so slight hint at violet makes it a soothing photograph.
White and grey
We have positive association with white. It’s elegant, light and associated with spirituality. With a bit of it’s opposite, white turns into gray; a neutral, moody color. It’s interesting how the lighter colors are closely associated with femininity and when mixed with black, masculinity. It is a color that shares the attributes of the strength of black and the purity of white.
The color the sky and water is also a popular one with interiors. It is calming, soothing and is associated with strength and trust. Light blue evokes feelings of peace and serenity while the darker hues are about strength and dependability. It is a spiritual color with roots that go back to ancient art when it was the symbol of heavens. In this photograph, the blue walls set the mood and it is the color that creates the atmospheric undertones.
Black is the color with many dual meanings. It’s one associated with death but also power and elegance. It’s not one to be taken lightly and used very sparingly in photography. It is also the absence of color and when paired with other hues, like orange in this image, provides a visually appealing and dramatic contrast.
Burgundy is such a rich color that it deserves it’s own spotlight. It’s another color associated with royalty and wealth. In this photograph, it stands as an emphasis and an accent color against the lighter hues of orange and the overpowering black and white.
Yellow is the most visible color in the spectrum. It grabs attention like no other color and we tend to see it before anything else in this shot. It’s a happy color associated with optimism, imagination and energy. It’s the color of sunshine, warmth and is even sometimes associated with the divine. Different shades of yellow have different influences. Darker shades can intensify an atmosphere and create a dramatic effect while the lighter pastel ones do the opposite.
These images raise the question – what makes an emotionally compelling color photograph? Things like composition and lighting are important and it goes without saying that the subject plays a big role. I hope you’re encouraged to also consider intelligent and purposeful use of color in your shots. The color palettes bring out a deeper meaning in your images and result in a more powerful, emotional impact on your audience.