Elements of Photographic Composition – Color

Color can mean so many different things to different people.  I tend to wear a lot of red and one time a coworker asked me if I was very angry because red is an anger color.  Umm – no, not really.  I wear red because #1 I think it looks god on me and #2 I think it’s a power color, elegant, sophisticated.  Although I can see where one might think it’s an anger color – there’s the phrase “so angry I saw red” after all.

So how does one use color to provoke a certain emotion when color can mean pretty much anything to anyone?  There are, of course, some rules of thumb for you to go by.

Red is the color of power (Hey, I was right!!) and passion.  It is also the color that will seem the closest compared to any other colors in the picture.  I struggled a bit finding a good red picture to show you here – I tend to have trouble with reds and I don’t know why.  They tend to look too bright, too contrasted – it’s something I’m working on.  So here’s a nice red maple from late summer 2010.

At Cornell Plantations

Red’s contrast is blue.  Blue is sensitive and peaceful, calm and nurturing (this must be why bedrooms are so often painted blue).  This also must be why so many of us photographer types enjoy the blue hour!!

Myers Point, Lansing, NY - City of Ithaca seen in the background

Yellow is the color of light and warmth, cowardliness and illness (not so sure about those last two but that’s what Bryan Peterson’s book says).  This sunflower doesn’t feel cowardly or ill to me!!

Field of Sunflowers

Sunflower field near King Ferry, NY

Yellow’s opposite is violet. Violet is the color of royalty, respect, wealth, and leadership.

West Hill Sunrise

Purple sunrise over Ithaca, NY

Besides being the color of the currently undefeated Syracuse Orangemen, orange is the color of fruitfulness (duh), fire, warmth, health and excitement.  I think this plot of flowers is exciting (especially now since it’s 10 degrees outside) but I’m not sure everyone would.


Taken at the Cornell Plantations

Green is the color of nature, harmony, recovery, and freshness. Green is also the color of sickness, aliens, and envy. Green gets around!!  I definitely find this shot restful or peaceful and not just because the snow leopard is being lazy – the green background definitely adds to the feeling.

Just lounging around

Snow Leopard at the Bronx Zoo

So I can’t believe it but that is all six elements of composition. My primary goal when I began this series was to help myself sort out the assorted elements in my head and I think I’ve succeeded in that. My secondary goal was to inform all of you of these elements and hopefully make them a bit clearer to you as well. Hopefully I’ve met that goal too!!


2 thoughts on “Elements of Photographic Composition – Color

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: