How To Improve Your Colour Photography

A street vendor in Thailand selling freshly squeezed orange juice had his fruit already cut in half and ready for thirsty customers. The rich colour was too tempting in the midday sun and the knife blade added the perfect constrast and focus to the shot. The trick here was to frame tightly so the oranges dominated the picture. Colour photography tips.

A street vendor in Thailand selling freshly squeezed orange juice had his fruit already cut in half and ready for thirsty customers. The rich colour was too tempting in the midday sun and the knife blade added the perfect constrast and focus to the shot. The trick here was to frame tightly so the oranges dominated the picture.
Colour photography tips.

GET CREATIVE WITH COLOUR PHOTOGRAPHY | Darrin Henry

So, colour photography, why does that need its own special mention? Each time I do, Sharon argues “colour photography is just, photography,” what am I making a fuss about?

There’s A Reward On Offer

Although photography was born in black and white; colour soon followed, but it’s been around so long now that today few people see it as something special. We live and experience the world in colour; it’s normal and in turn I think this means we now take the humble colour photo for granted.

The Facebook age swamps us in a sea of point and shoot imagery, most times with little thought to photographic principles and as a consequence we overlook how interesting colours could be. Not to mention a rewarding experience when it’s done well.

Once you begin to be more aware of colours around you then ideas for creative photography kick in. These blue doors along Portobello Road, London, needed a little contrast to set them off and Sharon had obviously gotten the 'wear colour' memo that morning! Pink, yellow, purple and blue - not holding anything back with this one. Colour photography tips.

Once you begin to be more aware of colours around you then ideas for creative photography kick in. These blue doors along Portobello Road, London, needed a little contrast to set them off and Sharon had obviously gotten the ‘wear colour’ memo that morning! Pink, yellow, purple and blue – not holding anything back with this one.
Colour photography tips.

Black and white photography has taken occupancy of the snobbish high ground, constantly linked with words like ‘classic’ and ‘arty.’

But colour can be arty and classic – why not? With a little care it’s not too difficult to turn everyday ‘pics’ into awesome colour photography. There are opportunities everywhere bursting with colour content, we just need to look a little more closely.

Here are a few tips and ideas for shooting good colour photography.

Colour Photography Tip 1 – Planning

Include colour in your photography planning. In other words, the first stage is usually spotting the shot, ie a beautiful flower, impressive architecture or a shiny, sleek sports car. Hopefully you then plan an angle; crouching low or jumping onto a bench for a good viewpoint. But now, include a colour check in your planning – what are the colours in the shot? How do they catch the light or contrast with a change of angle? How does one colour line up against the other?

The flame of the 2015 PanAmerican Games in Toronto, Canada. Although the torch holder looked amazing it was surrounded by tall buildings which made a side view rather cluttered. To make this shot work it meant getting up under the torch as close as possible and shooting upwards against the clear blue sky. Colour photography tips.

The flame of the 2015 PanAmerican Games in Toronto, Canada. Although the torch holder looked amazing it was surrounded by tall buildings which made a side view rather cluttered. To make this shot work it meant getting up under the torch as close as possible and shooting upwards against the clear blue sky.
Colour photography tips.

Colour Photography Tip 2 – Choose Domination

Colours that blend together easily are more suited to colour photography. Similar shades or block colours that dominate a scene are less suited to black and white. Non contrasting colours, eg blue, green and red dominating a frame tend to work better in colour.

This explosive orange burst comes from isolating the colour as well as changing the angle. Shooting this flower from above gave very ordinary results, but lying down in the grass at 'eye level' so to speak, the gorgeous colour just pops into life. Colour photography tips.

This explosive orange burst comes from isolating the colour as well as changing the angle. Shooting this flower from above gave very ordinary results, but lying down in the grass at ‘eye level’ so to speak, the gorgeous colour just pops into life.
Colour photography tips.

This blue Land Rover parked alongside a shipping container of similar colour is a good example of strong block colours working well. Moving in close to fill the frame with blue made this picture work. Colour photography tips.

This blue Land Rover parked alongside a shipping container of similar colour is a good example of strong block colours working well. Moving in close to fill the frame with blue made this picture work.
Colour photography tips.

Colour Photography Tip 3 – Isolation Is Good

Isolate colours within your composition. Try to simplify the colour combinations in the same frame. A bold colour against a drab background gives good colour pop. When the subject is defined by its colour, flowers for instance or the fabric of a dress, try to isolate the object against a neutral background.

The neutral background colour here was just right to frame the red parasol against. The patterns in the paving tiles and table tops as well as the lines and shapes all contribute to give the shot an interesting texture. Colour photography tips.

The neutral background colour here was just right to frame the red parasol against. The patterns in the paving tiles and table tops as well as the lines and shapes all contribute to give the shot an interesting texture.
Colour photography tips.

The monks in Southeast Asia wear these striking orange robes. In the Angkor Wat temple the open courtyards made for a natural, well lit, photography space. In this situation when you can visualise how the colours will contrast it's a case of pick your spot then wait. Colour photography tips.

The monks in Southeast Asia wear these striking orange robes. In the Angkor Wat temple the open courtyards made for a natural, well lit, photography space. In this situation when you can visualise how the colours will contrast it’s a case of pick your spot then wait.
Colour photography tips.

Colour Photography Tip 4 – Shoot With The Shadows

Finally, as a general rule when outdoors, shoot early or late in the day; avoid the two to three hours either side of midday. If you read our post about why shadows are key to great landscape photography, this might help. It’s also worth keeping in mind that lighter colours tend to ‘blow out’ in stronger light, so more reason to choose the time of day carefully.

This large hook was hanging off a steam derrick at Steamtown in Scranton, Pennsylvannia. The bright yellow triggered an immediate colour alert and then it was a case of circling around to find an angle that worked. Early morning light was key to making this picture work - bright colours such as this yellow is likely to blow out with stronger midday light, a good reason to shoot early. Colour photography tips.

This large hook was hanging off a steam derrick at Steamtown in Scranton, Pennsylvannia. The bright yellow triggered an immediate colour alert and then it was a case of circling around to find an angle that worked. Early morning light was key to making this picture work – bright colours such as this yellow is likely to blow out with stronger midday light, a good reason to shoot early.
Colour photography tips.

For the perfect morning of colour photography it's hard to beat the architecture of the French Quarter in New Orleans, USA. The decorators here are not shy about expressing themselves with colours; every building it seems is a work of art. Colour photography tips.

For the perfect morning of colour photography it’s hard to beat the architecture of the French Quarter in New Orleans, USA. The decorators here are not shy about expressing themselves with colours; every building it seems is a work of art.
Colour photography tips.

As always, don’t get blinkered by the rules – experiment and go against conventional thinking when it feels right; this is just a base to build on. Hopefully you’ve been inspired to pay more attention to colour in your pictures. You may also want to check out our tips and guidelines on how to shoot good black and white photography if that’s more your thing.

We’d be interested to know which style you prefer.

Good luck.

Peas and corn! Doesn't get any better for fresh, vibrant colour contrasts. The macro lens came in handy here to get up close. There are plenty of creative ideas for colour photography in and around the house. Colour photography tips.

Peas and corn! Doesn’t get any better for fresh, vibrant colour contrasts. The macro lens came in handy here to get up close. There are plenty of creative ideas for colour photography in and around the house.
Colour photography tips.

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