The RGB of it all
Or is it the CYMK? (One matters online; the other in print). Do you dream in color? Did people dream in black and white before the invention of black and white film? If so, how did they know what the world looked like in black and white? When are color photos best and when do black and white images better solve the visual problem at hand? What moods and emotions do colors
Explaining the complex science of color is beyond my expertise. However, here are a few simple rules that I can share: avoid the Christmas colors of red and green together unless the photograph is about Christmas. Those colors are so closely associated with Christmas in western culture that the association sometimes attaches itself to red and green when they appear together in any photo.
For an image of mother and child to illustrate the concept of caring, don’t dress the mother in red. Blue is the color of sky and calm water. As such it is a universal color of peace and calm. ‘Blue’ is also associated with sadness such as in the expression ‘the blues’. Use a blue cast to an image of a depressed person to get across that emotion. This can be a better, more sophisticated means to the end than hitting the viewer over the head with an image of someone who is obviously trying to look really, really sad. This image of a businessman uses both color and authentic expression to create an effective shot. But use care: an overall hue of a grey/blue also makes the temperature change. An image with a bluish hue sends a message to the brain that it might be pretty cold in the room or scene. Some colors have universal meaning because they are so closely tied to the primary colors in nature: orange/red for fire (hot!), green and blue skies. The primary colors are yellow, red and blue. Yellow in nature usually implies fall. But yellow is also the color we associate with the sun and by extension, with sunny days and happiness. There is a reason that the smiley face is yellow.
Pink is for a baby girl and blue for a boy… but did you know that jail cells are often painted pink to calm the prisoners? Or that some football teams painted the visitors locker rooms pink in an effort to reduce aggression? The professional and collegiate associations then said that locker rooms could be any color but both the home and the visitor rooms had to be the same color. Pink disappeared pretty quickly from the palette of jock room decor.
Pink may be girly but red is not. It is the color of stop signs for a reason. Red means LOOK AT ME. Or LOOK OUT. If you want an object to stand out against others in a scene, make it red. Fire engine red.
Before you go to work with models, pay attention to the colors in the wardrobe. Do the colors compliment each other or clash? How does the clothing work with the other elements in the image? Are the colors contemporary? Look at the background color in studio shots. Have an informed reason for picking a certain color of seamless.
Did you ever wonder why suddenly you see a color everywhere? There are several groups that assist designers in picking colors for the next season for apparel, upholstery, paint and even car interiors. See the color association link below to sign up for their free newsletter about what colors will be in and which will be out.Photographers should study the elements of color theory. Take a class if you are clueless. I have to admit though in my personal art work I like to think that it’s good to know the rules so I can break them. A discussion of B&W vs. color in a later blog.If you doubt the power of color, spend a minute or two looking at this website. I haven’t a clue as to what the type says but the every changing palette is mesmerizing.
Below you’ll find some places to learn more about color
Color Fundamentals for digital photography: