Colour composition

12:52 AM

Successful colour photography means learning to use colour as a compositional tool – as a form of visual communication in its own right – rather than just reproducing a scene or subject that happens to be in colour.
The importance of colour
Colour is far from being merely incidental, any more than is the surface texture of a subject or, indeed, the quality of the light illuminating it. Colour is an integral part of our experience of the subject, helping to determine both the mood and the atmosphere of the scene and our emotional responses to it. One way to come to terms with this is to record colours as if they were distinct entities, separate from the things displaying them.
Mental focus
Once you have made this change in mental focus, you could, for example, start evaluating scenes not in terms of vistas or panoramas, but in terms of colour content. Look at, say, the greens – are they as intense as you want? Is the light too contrasty for them to have real depth? Is your shooting position right in relation to the light in order to give the colour impact you want to record? Look at a city scene not because it is full of activity but because there, among the drabness, are flashes of red, or blue, or green. And if a neighbouring colour is distracting, change focal length or crop the final image to exclude it.
Colour and harmony
Although it is difficult to generalize about what are essentially subjective reactions to the inclusion of particular colours, as a general rule if you include combinations of adjacesnt colours in an image you create more of a harmonious effect. This is especially true if the colours are approximately equivalent to each other in brightness and saturation. As well as being pleasing to the eye, colour harmony also helps to bind together what could perhaps be disparate subject elements within a composition.

- How to photograph absolutely everything.Tom Ang. Dorling Kindersley. 2007
- Composition, Michael Freeman. The Ilex Press Ltd, 2012
Pictures credit: Vivera Siregar

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