The power of color

I’ve shared many many stories and images on the blog here to help illustrate the various nuances of things like light, angles, and yes, even color.  I’ve talked about complementary colors, and simplicity of colors and I’d like to re-visit that today as we head into the weekend, because it’s not something I see talked about a lot.

The illustration I am trying to make in all of this is that a simplicity of color can be just as powerful as a huge rainbow of colors – and sometimes, even more so.  Sometimes, a uniformity of color can have an impact and a power that all the wild variations thrown together cannot induce a positive reaction.  As in all things photographic, the best way to demonstrate is through imagery.  here are a few examples of the “Power of Color”  In the interests of keeping things consistent, I am working hereunder the RGB principle of Red, Green, and Blue as the three primary colors, and will look at these in comparison to a scene of multiple colors.  Ready?  let’s go!


Roses are Red

The red of a rose – simple, elegant, classic, and the lines certainly do not hurt the composition.  Like the shot?  Think it works better than a multiple-colored scene.  Take a look:


Multiple Colors 1

Sure, I cheated a little bit by putting some colors together that don’t exactly complement each other, but hopefully it illustrates that a hegemony of color isn’t always a good thing.  That’s just one example though, right?  Let’s look at some more perhaps less convincing samples to see if the theory holds true:


It Ain't Easy Being Green

A green anole sits on a green bed of leaves.  This one has been accepted at iStock (under an account since closed), so let’s just assume that this one “works”.    And here, we have a counterpart to the almost pure green:


Multiples 2

Oooh…a tougher call because these colors complement each other better.  Yeah the scene is mitigated by the car bumper, but still – it’s a nice combo of green, red, blue, black, and white.  Your eyes kind of go all over the place don’t they?  Hmmm…maybe it’s not as tough a call after all.  Colors can distract you sometimes… 😉

One more set…



Again, we’ve got some simple colors here…very much a blue-dominant scene, albeit with different shades, but for the most part blue.  I know some could argue that the presence of shades means different colors and while technically true, on the color spectrum these are closer to being the same color than they are different colors.  And the gray – pretty much color-neutral, and not a factor


Multiple 3

It gets tougher here because there isn’t as much color variation but I don’t have a lot of blue in my portfolio of work that includes other colors, so I had to go with one I’ve used before as reference.  It’s actually a pretty cool scene because sunsets in South Carolina are not easy to capture favorably as they almost always have unfavorable skylines.  This one from the ocean looking in at the marshlands was an exception to the rule.  Sure, it’s pretty (one of my favorites from SC), but look, the blues grab your eyes, then the oranges, and you can even see a hint of green in the foreground.  It starts to get distracting with the lighter water in the foreground too.  (Yes, I know, we are always our own worst critics).

The point that I’ve hopefully driven home though, is that you can have beautiful scenes with either a mixture or a simplicity of color.  When in doubt though…try to go for simpler compositions of color.  Too much can be a bad thing.  At least that’s my take.  What’s yours?

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2 comments for “The power of color

  1. June 25, 2010 at 7:33 am

    Some great images here today Jason. And a good post as usual.

    Hey, new look for the website eh? Pretty cool. So, what’s next for Canonblogger???

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