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How to use colors for different types of Photography

Updated: May 8, 2021

In any form of visual art, colors are known to reflect the emotions of subjects and the moods of moments. Photography is no exception either. Knowledge of the color wheel, complementary, analogous, and triadic colors can help you frame and process your photographs to create an outstanding effect. Here’s a look at how color has its own significance across various genres of photography.

Cityscape Photography: Blending the Blues

Landscape photographers make the most of the golden hour or the magic hour, immediately after sunrise or just before sunset, to capture the warm hues that enhance the natural landscape colors. On the other hand, cityscape shutterbugs bank on the blue hour just before sunrise or after sunset to accentuate the deeper blue hues of skylines as a backdrop to the interior lights of silhouetted buildings.

Those seeking to create a futuristic effect again use blue filters or enhance the blue tones at building tops to get the astral look right. A glossy finish along with the automotive light trails easily helps you to create that city anyone would want to live in. On the other hand, a matte texture, with quite a few shadows and neon colors will be perfect to capture a city that is known for its not-so-nice reputation.

Still Life Photography: Creating the Color Library

Display area texture and color as well as the color of props you use during a shoot can create harmony or vibrancy in your still life photography. If you blend the blues and greens you get a harmonious and calming effect and if you use marigold flowers on a bed of green foliage, you can create a stunning visual. So if you seriously like this genre, you should be shopping for fabric, plates, bowls, vases, small rocks and dried flora for that rustic look and metal for that industrial touch. You will need a decent collection of such backdrops and props to build your own color library to carve a niche for yourself in still life photography.

Jewellery Photography: Juggling with the Same Shades

While neutral colors such as white, black, and grey are the preferred background choices for photographs of colored jewels, when it comes to diamonds, rich and elegant hues like burgundy, emerald, and sapphire work well as backdrops. You can also experiment with various shades of the same color for the background, where this color is a contrasting color to color of the stone embedded in the jewellery. For example, a ruby pendant nestling in a bed of lemon green leaves will be a striking shot. Go for pink and purple hues, if you want to create a mood of romance around the jewellery pieces. A silky texture for the background adds to the luxurious effect you want to create for your jewellery. A minimalistic, plain approach to the background is preferred so as to highlight the beauty of your jewellery.

Wildlife Photography: Wowing with Analogous Colors

Your wildlife photography can have a wowing effect if you know how to play with the earthy analogous hues of green, yellow, and orange. If you also understand how to use advancing and receding colors, you can add depth to your wildlife or naturescape photography. For example, an orange flamingo against the backdrop of a blue sky will create an appearance of the flamingo flying closer to you while the blue adds distance to the sky.

Street Photography: Steering Clear from Color Noise

One of the attractions of street photography is the riotous color choices it offers. However, the same vibrancy can spoil your visuals as well. When you want to shoot a specific subject in warm colors, if the background has muted or neutral colors, your subject will stand out. But if the background is also very colorful, the subject becomes one of the many objects and you will end up with a visual that is chaotic. So ensure that you capture visuals where color noise is minimized. Usually, street photography works best with two or maximum of three complementary colors in the frame.

White Balance: Achieving the Real Look in Reel

With different light sources with different temperatures having varying effects on colors, the right white balance setting on your camera decides the retention of colors in your visual close to real life.

Click here to find out how noted photographer Dinesh Khanna uses color in his expansive collection of photographs.


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