Use of color in imagery can be a powerful thing. People have been using color to connect and communicate with others for a long time. It can create a dynamic sense of mood and atmosphere within photography. The purposeful use of color within photography is truly one of the many ways to invite your viewer deeper into your image and make them stay awhile.
Read More: Intro to Color Theory in Photography
Let’s take a closer look at different colors and their meanings. It’s important to know that cultural factors come into play here. Sometimes colors do not always have the same meaning across different cultures. However for the most part colors have a universal essence.
Red is one of the most powerful colors within the color spectrum. It’s not a color we often see in nature, so having your subject wear red will make them stand out. Red is often the symbol for love.
It can also mean energy, danger, courage and strength. It is a very intense and powerful color highly visible hence why it’s regularly used in warning symbols. In the image below it’s intention is to symbolize love.
Orange represents creativity, success, eagerness and fascination. Like red it’s a highly visible color not often found in nature.
Yellow generally evokes a feeling of happiness, caution, freshness and energy. Because of its cheerful and youthful persona, yellow is often associated with children. Like red and orange it’s a highly visible color.
Green is of course found most often in nature. It symbolizes peace, stability, vigor and growth. Unlike the color red, green symbolizes safety. Showcasing a lot of green within an image can evoke a peaceful mood.
Like green, blue is frequently found in nature. We see it most often in the sky and water. It represents devotion, confidence, tranquility and trust. Also similar to green, it can evoke a sense of peacefulness.
Purple represents power, wealth, wisdom and independence. Like red and orange, it’s a very rare color in nature therefore it stands out.
The purposeful use of color can greatly enhance and affect the overall mood of an image, especially when using complementary colors. These are colors directly opposite of each other in the color wheel. For example red and green or blue and orange.
Including such colors can not only add visual interest but make your subject pop. Take for example the image below. The cool, dark tones of the crib sheets make the much brighter yellow my son is wearing stand out.
In the next image the complementary colors of red and green are not only visually pleasing to the eye, the cool tones of the green grass make the much warmer tones of the red apples stand out.
The cool blue and green tones of the image below give it a peaceful and tranquil atmosphere. The pop of yellow on my son makes him stand out against the cooler tones. It exudes a feeling of youthfulness and joy.
Of course use of color within photography does not have to be intentionally planned prior to shooting, but having a solid understanding of color and it’s meaning can enhance and polish an image.