Colors. Colors. Colors. Colors. Colors. Colors. Okay, some of you may know where I’m going with this and others may not. If you’re part of the latter group, check out this link. Now I must tell you, after the first 2 or 3 seconds you may want to turn it off because some serious gangsta rap comes on after that nice little intro or you may want to just let it play. Who am I to presume you don’t like gangsta rap? Anywho, I do like tend to tell stories by incorporating song lyrics where applicable. It’s actually more effective in person but this is all we’ve got right now. So, this week, I would like to talk about the importance of colors in photography.
Designers and photographers who have gone to school to learn their craft have all learned about color theory. Yes, there is a theory for colors. Here is the definition for color theory, as provided by the Interaction Design Foundation: “Color theory is a term used to describe the collection of rules and guidelines regarding the use of color in art and design, as developed since their early days. Color theory informs the design of color schemes, aiming at aesthetic appeal and the effective communication of a design message on both the visual level and the psychological level.” Did you just read that and say, “What?” Basically, emotions and/or actions can be influenced by colors and their combinations and that there are rules/guidelines as to how to use colors to achieve the desired result. Check out the images below. How does each image make you feel or think about? Is one bold? Is one more relaxing? Which one are you drawn to and why?
When I photograph, not everything I do is planned. A lot of my photography is happenstance or better yet, serendipity. The above image (the one on the right is the original) was by chance. We were walking around and I was looking for a nice background to put her in front of. That’s when I saw this fabulously painted, red wall. I knew her lipstick and ring would pop out and that her dress was basically in the same color family as the red but the tone was so different that she wouldn’t just blend into the wall. As you see, it worked. The only image I planned as far as the colors were concerned is the middle one. The first one was a happy accident. See how the colors in her dress and the pattern match the background? That was a happy accident. When she changed clothes I knew where I wanted her to stand. As for the little girls in the middle, I planned all of that. I wanted a very earthy feel so I paired my brown backdrop with some other neutral tones. Lastly, the third image was an accident. I was outside photographing the kids and I wanted to get out of the direct sun. We moved over to the shade and his green shirt went beautifully with the grass and trees. Sidenote: He wasn’t supposed to have that shirt on. It was his little brother’s shirt but I didn’t find that out until after his mother told me.
As you can see, all of the images have their own feel to them. When I shoot in a studio setting and pick the wardrobe, I have so much more control over how the image will look and feel. Most of the time, that doesn’t happen, so I have to work with what I’ve been given. At that point, I have to photograph my subjects in a way that the colors will complement my vision. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and in those instances, I may actually change the image to black and white. I love this image of little Zoe’ but there were just too many colors for what I wanted.
As you can see, she had on these adorably colorful socks along with a cute, little striped dress adorned with flowers. There were way too many colors going on for me. For me, a good rule of thumb is to not have more than three colors in your image. At times, having too many colors can get in the way of telling a great story. People tend to lose focus on the subject and focus on all of the colors instead. That’s not what I want. I want viewers to see my clients and the story within the image.
So, in case you were ever wondering why photographers are so big on clothes and colors, this is why. We want you to look the best you can without having distractions in your images. I must admit, I’m not a clothing Nazi but I would prefer sticking to no more than three colors, which need to be complementary. Sometimes, I may allow four but it all depends on what they are and the story that I would like to tell.