Growing up under the often overcast skies of northern Europe, I wasn’t prepared for the bright colors of the south of France when we moved here 9 years ago. The bright blue skies, deep red earth, yellow ochre houses and colorful provençial markets -life in the Mediterranean is vibrant, joyful, loud and bursting with character!
I quickly fell in love with the colors of this region and the more of it I can incorporate into my images the better. I try to do so with intention, using it as a compositional element to strengthen my images wherever possible. Here are some ways I’ve found to do this!
My little daughter is usually my main subject and I like to include a lot of the environment to tell our story, so I often shoot with a wide-angle lens, my 20mm. With this lens, even shooting at wider apertures, most of the background remains pretty much in focus. I’ve found that dressing her in bright colors or a color which will stand out against the background, guides the viewer’s eye to her.
Our mind perceives colors differently. When viewed in an image, warm colors actually seem closer to the viewer, and cool colors seem further away. Therefore combining warm and cool colors in the same image can actually add depth and dimension to the otherwise two-dimensional image, rendering it more 3-D. I enhance this further by adding textured overlays to my images when editing in Photoshop. One of my favourite textures has a warm, orange-toned center and a cool, blue-purple vignette. Again, it increases that impression of depth.
Color can affect our perception in terms of mood and it’s therefore frequently used in marketing to subconsciously enhance this mood and evoke emotion. Red is often perceived as exciting – think of Ferraris! Pink is associated with romance – no getting away from it around Valentine’s Day – while blues can be calming, or even sad, depending on the context. We can similarly use color in our images to enhance the mood. When we go out on adventures, my little one will usually choose a vibrant warm color to wear anyway and this works well with the fun-filled images I generally capture.
The idea of using color to enhance mood can even be taken a step further. Colors can be organized in a circle to demonstrate their relationship to each other. This is known as the color wheel. Colors directly opposite each other on the wheel are called complimentary colors and those next to each other on the wheel are called analogous colors.
By incorporating complimentary colors into our images (or looking out for them, for example in this colorful playground), we create contrast, which can add a feeling of dynamism to our images – perfect for capturing those feelings of energy or chaos that come with having little kids around!
Complimentary colors can also be used to heighten dramatic tension or conflict, such as this bright yellow jacket against the stormy sky.
Alternatively, incorporating analogous colors into our images, such as various shades of blue and green together, can enhance a feeling of calm and tranquility.
These are just a few of the ways in which I use color to strengthen my images. I know what you’re thinking – little ones don’t always want to be told what to wear and mine is no different ! However, most of them will jump at the idea of playing with a brightly colored beach towel, umbrella, kite or donning a pair of colorful sun glasses ! The next time you head out, try to think what kind of environment you’ll be in, what kind of mood you’d like to create and how color can be incorporated to tell your story!
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