Color theory is complicated. People spend hours in accredited institutions learning about it. There’s a science to picking out colors and putting them together to achieve a desired effect. Once you know how to do it, these concepts can help you in every aspect of your life: from your wardrobe to interior design, right down to choosing your blog’s theme colors.
Contrast is a huge element in photography and it just so happens that color plays an important role. It takes some consideration and vision to compose a shot artistically. Never fear, though, because there’s a formula for creating photographs using color and contrast to evoke emotion and interest.
Photography Tips | Everything you need to know about color and contrast in photography.
Color And Contrast In Photography
Color is actually a combination of three terms I bet you know: hue, saturation and brightness.
Hot air balloon against a dark sky | Learning about hue and color will help you to capture better photographs | Photography Tip
The 12 Step Color Wheel
When you think of a color, you’re probably thinking of a hue-with-a-specific-saturation-and-brightness.
There are primary hues, which when mixed, produce secondary hues. Then, if a primary and secondary hue are mixed, you get a tertiary hue.
All of it works because of how the light waves interact with one another. The hues in a color wheel appear in the same order they do in a rainbow. Hues opposite one another on the wheel are called complimentary or contrasting colors.
The hues in the color wheel above are fully saturated. Most things we come across in nature will be much more dull. Variations of saturation are called tint (white added), shade (black added) and tone (grey added).
Understand how color saturation can help or hurt your photographs. Sometimes a dark saturation can help to draw your eyes to the important, lighter portion of the photo.
This is something we may think of more in terms of lighting and exposure, which are both big components, however brightness strongly affects color as well. It is the range between light and dark. Some colors only have a short range: for example yellow can be tinted until it reaches white, however if it is shaded too much it becomes another color entirely. Other colors like blue can extend the full range between tint and shade.
Learn which colors can extend the full range between tint and shade, and use that when you are taking photographs.
Once you know how hue, saturation and brightness combine to form color, you can use that knowledge to think about contrast when creating photographs. Contrast, by definition, is a difference. You have the artistic choice of composing your photograph to showcase or minimize differences in lighting and color in your scene. These choices will help set the mood for your shot.
This term is usually used in association with black and white photography, although color photos do have tonal contrast. Think of this in terms of highlights and shadows or blacks and whites. Our ability to perceive these differences in tone is why we can recognize shapes and lines.