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Colour Impact: Perfect Your Palette

beginners creative technique tips Jul 10, 2024

Colour is a powerful tool in photography, capable of evoking emotions, highlighting subjects, and adding visual interest to your images. By understanding how to use colour effectively, you can make your photos pop and captivate your audience. In this blog post, we’ll explore techniques for using colour to create vibrant and eye-catching photos. Whether you’re a beginner or looking to refine your skills, these tips will help you unlock your photographic potential.


Understanding Colour in Photography

Colour in photography is more than just capturing what you see. It’s about using colours creatively to tell a story, set a mood, and draw attention to specific elements within your frame. In digital photography, colours are represented using the additive colour model, which involves mixing red, green, and blue light.


Primary Colours (RGB): Red, green, and blue are the primary colours in the additive colour model used in digital photography.

Secondary Colours: Mixing two primary colours creates secondary colours: cyan (green + blue), magenta (red + blue), and yellow (red + green).

Tertiary Colours: These are created by mixing primary and secondary colours.


Using Complementary Colours

Complementary colours are pairs of colours that are opposite each other on the colour wheel and create high contrast and vibrant images.

To use complementary colours, find a scene where these colours naturally occur or incorporate them into your composition. For instance, a red object against a green background.


Creating Colour Harmony

Harmonious colour schemes are pleasing to the eye and create a sense of balance. These include analogous colours (colours next to each other on the wheel) and monochromatic colours (different shades of the same colour).


Analogous Colours: These colours, such as blue and green or red and orange, blend well together. Use them to create soothing and cohesive images.


Monochromatic Colours: Using various shades of a single colour can add depth and interest without being overwhelming. This technique is excellent for creating minimalist and calm images.


Colour as a Focal Point

Using a single, bright colour in an otherwise neutral or subdued scene can draw the viewer's eye directly to the subject. This technique is known as colour pop or spot colour.  Sometimes the background is naturally neutral in colour, and sometimes you’ll need to desaturate some colours in post-production to achieve the desired effect.

Look for opportunities where a single colour stands out, such as a red umbrella in a grey cityscape or a yellow flower in a field of green. Use editing tools to enhance the pop of colour if needed.


Understanding Colour Temperature

Colour temperature refers to the warmth or coolness of a photo and is measured in Kelvin (K). Warm colours like reds, oranges, and yellows create a cozy and inviting feel, while cool colours like blues and greens evoke calmness and tranquillity.

Adjusting Colour Temperature: Use your camera’s white balance settings to adjust the colour temperature. For warmer tones, use settings like 'shade' or 'cloudy'. For cooler tones, use 'tungsten' or 'fluorescent'.


Enhancing Colours with Lighting

Lighting plays a crucial role in how colours are perceived. Natural light, artificial light, and the time of day can all affect the colours in your photos.

Golden Hour: The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset, known as the golden hour, provides soft, warm light that enhances colours and creates a magical glow.

Blue Hour: The period of twilight before sunrise and after sunset, known as the blue hour, casts a cool, blue light over scenes, ideal for creating moody and dramatic photos.


Post-Processing for Colour Enhancement

Editing your photos allows you to enhance and manipulate colours to achieve your desired look. Here are some essential tools and techniques:


Saturation and Vibrance: Increase saturation to make colours more vivid. Use vibrance to boost the intensity of less-saturated colours without affecting already saturated areas.

Hue Adjustment: Adjust the hue of specific colours to achieve harmony or create artistic effects. This can be done in photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop.

Selective Colouring: Highlight specific colours while desaturating the rest of the image. This technique can create a striking contrast and draw attention to the main subject.


Practical Tips for Using Colour in Photography

1. Scout for Colourful Locations: Seek out places known for their vibrant colours, such as flower gardens, markets, and festivals.

2. Use Props: Incorporate colourful props into your scenes, like balloons, fabrics, or painted backgrounds.

3. Experiment with Angles: Change your perspective to see how colours interact differently from various angles.

4. Mind Your Background: Ensure the background complements the main colours in your subject. A distracting background can take away from the overall impact.


Using Colour Theory in Different Genres

Portrait Photography: Use warm tones to create a sense of intimacy and cool tones for a calm, serene effect. Consider the subject’s clothing and background to ensure they complement each other.

Landscape Photography: Capture the natural colours of the environment. Look for contrasting colours like a blue sky against green fields or autumn leaves against a clear blue lake.

Street Photography: Incorporate the vibrant colours of urban environments. Use colourful graffiti, signs, and clothing to add interest and narrative to your shots.



Mastering the use of colour in photography can transform your images from ordinary to extraordinary. By understanding the principles of colour theory, utilising complementary and harmonious colours, and enhancing colours through lighting and post-processing, you can create vibrant and eye-catching photos that captivate your audience. Remember to experiment and find your unique style, as colour is a versatile tool that can be used in countless creative ways.


For more photography tips and tutorials, join our community at Master Your Photography and share your colourful shots for feedback and support. Unlock your photographic potential by mastering the art of using colour.

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