Tips + Techniques

Watch: How to Use Color Theory to Elevate Your Photography

October 17, 2017

By Greg Scoblete

Pexels CC

As anyone who’s ever stumbled out of the house with mis-matched socks or a poorly coordinated outfit knows, color matters. For photographers, color, like light, is one of the principle means of telling a story and conveying visual impact. Understanding color theory can help you better plan your shoot, whether you’re shooting people, food, architecture or products.

In this tutorial, Daniel Inskeep and Rachel Gulotta of the production studio Mango Street highlight how you can use color theory to improve your photography.

The key to letting color theory guide your photography is to choose one of four approaches listed below (there are actually a few more in color theory but the four covered by Mango Street are a good start). Before you shoot, you’ll need a color wheel to help plot out your color scheme. You can find one at Palleton.

Complementary: With this approach, you select colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. This is an ideal approach for creating dramatic looks.

Split Complementary: In addition to the two opposite base colors, this color scheme uses the two colors adjacent to the complements you’ve chosen. It’s considered a bit easier to work with than the straight complementary approach.

Triadic: A triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. It’s best used to make vibrant images.

Analogous: This approach use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. These colors match well and are used to convey a sense of comfort and nature.

If you want a deeper dive, don’t miss Glenn Rand’s piece on Perceptions and Color Photography.

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