The Power of Color and Negative Space

Nothing brings power and emotion to a photo as well as bold, saturated color. Photographers capturing photos with this type of color are praised for the mastery of their images. But just capturing bold color is not enough alone to make a powerful photo. The purpose of this blog is to discuss just one color technique that will immediately improve your photographs: using complementary colors and negative space.

Pete Turner, Eric Meola, Jay Maisel and Al Satterwhite are just a few renown professional photographers that use complementary colors and negative space in their images. To understand what I am talking about let's start with a discussion of complementary colors first.

The theory of complementary colors is simple. Consider a color wheel.

In color theory, two colors of light are called complementary if, when mixed in the proper proportion, they produce a neutral color (grey, white, or black). To simplify what this means, look at a standard color wheel. The colors that are opposite or nearly opposite of each other are complementary colors.

Here are some examples of images with complementary colors:

Orange and Blue.

Red and Green.

Blue and Yellow.

Green and Purple

Notice how in the example photos these colors are not only used but also dominate the entire photograph. Doing this creates a dynamic image. But we can do better. To do this let's add some negative space (a/k/a black) into a photograph containing complementary colors. Here are some examples:

The photo above of the red car and green background has some negative space in it.

© Nrogul
Here is another of Red and Green with negative space.

Blue and yellow (gold) with negative space. And another with similar colors.

Green and Purple with negative space.

Now I realize that everyone is different. Not everyone will agree that these example photos are "great" or even "good." However, the impact of these photos using complementary colors and negative space far exceeds most of the photos that are uploaded by the thousands here at Dreamstime.

Consider that each of the photos used in this blog to demostrate this technique has sold well. Since our goal here at Dreamstime is to sell our images, that fact alone is something to think about.

So next time you are shooting photos to upload here at Dreamstime, try taking some photos with complementary colors and negative space to add to your portfolio rather than the same "isolated on white background" photos that we see so often. Maybe by using this color technique you too can create a winner.

Good luck and I hope to see you out shooting!

Photo credits: Andrea Volpicelli, Crystal Craig, Lane Erickson, Nikita Rogul, Photowitch, Saniphoto, Shuttlecock, Nikhil Gangavane, Yakobchuk.

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October 29, 2010


i always thought that blue is a color that attracts buyers. perharps it's due to the blue sky, blue sea, etc..

October 16, 2010


realy good pictures

October 10, 2010


Thanks for sharing this interesting info, much appreciated!

October 10, 2010


Interesting article.

October 08, 2010


Very interesting. Thank you for share.

October 08, 2010


A great article , thanks alot. Very usefull.

October 07, 2010


Thanks for the great article :)

October 07, 2010


Great blog, thank you!

October 07, 2010


Interesting information.

October 07, 2010


I actually use this technique when I paint but it never crossed my mind (shame on me) to use it in my photos! Thanks :)

October 06, 2010


Thanks, I'm going out! Great blog!

October 05, 2010


There is a lot of material about complementary colors out there, and it gets complicated, but this article in its shortness manages to make the points in a very clear and practical manner. The examples are good and to the point. Very good article.

October 05, 2010


Nice images :-)

October 05, 2010


Thanks for share this article, its very useful!

October 05, 2010


It's such an informative article about complementary colors. They do make a great impression on the eye!

October 05, 2010


Thanks very much for this wonderful article!

October 05, 2010


Yes , colour counts! Thanks for the great topic and the article.

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