Color Contrast in Photography

Every photographer who strives after perfection understands the importance of practicing daily and constantly improving their photography. But if you take it really seriously, in about a year or so the time that I like to call a slow-down phase comes. This is the moment when your photos just remain on the same level of quality irrespective of how much you practice or do to improve.

This is a pretty common phenomenon and usually it’s about making a leap from amateur to professional photography. And as a matter of course, professional photography requires you to know many advanced techniques that you can’t really learn through trial and error and may need some guiding to understand.

One of these techniques is color contrast and it’s about grasping the relationships between colors as well as learning to combine them and make them stand out in order to make your photos more powerful.

Photography is a kind of visual art and just like painting it’s based on putting hundreds of colors and hues together, making them blend and be in harmony. Most of people take colors for granted and don’t really think about color combinations in our surroundings unless they are painters or color blind.

If you are none of the latter, you can use this color chart as a hint when it comes to combining colors. Let’s have a look at it and explain you several important things. First of all, you should know that there are primary and secondary colors. The former are red, green, and blue and the latter are cyan, magenta, and yellow. The rest are simply derivatives of the primary and secondary colors.

Some of these colors blind and combine really well whilst others don’t. Obviously, just like in case with composition, there are no unbreakable rules of color combination, but still professionals like to use a couple of color combination principles that generally work.

Complementary colors

Complementary colors, which are sometimes called contrasting, are colors that combine really well. If you look at the color chart we provided above, you will find out that complementary colors are located opposite one another. For example, red combines well with cyan, magenta with green, blue with yellow, and so on.

Split complementary colors

Split complementary colors are similar to complementary ones and they blend pretty well, too. Choose any color from the color chart, then draw a line to the parallel color and complement the initial color with the two colors that are located closest to the parallel color.

Analogous colors

Analogous colors are used to create a feeling of harmony. They are colors of the same hue and are located close to one another on the color chart. They are usually not more than three colors that are located together.

Apart from these color combination principles, there are several more things that you will need to take into account to improve color contrast in your photos even more.

Firstly, larger and fewer areas of blending colors will look much better than smaller and numerous areas of the same colors. Check out these two photos below to feel the difference.

Smaller and numerous areas of color, less color contrast

Larger and fewer areas of color, more color contrast

Secondly, the more saturation your photo has the more color contrast it will have. However, be sure not to get too carried away with saturation because it may make your photographs look too acidy and therefore repelling. Have a look at the two photos below to see how saturation may impact the way we view the photo.

Less saturation, less color contrast

More saturation, more color contrast

Be sure to use color contrast every time you take a photo and remember that it can help you improve photographs of any style, whether it’s landscape, product, portrait, or street photography.

We hope that this article was of help to you and we’ll be glad to answer your questions in comments. Feel free to shoot us a message!

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