We are surrounded by colour everywhere and our senses perceive these colours in a way that can add a mood to the setting or invoke a personal emotion dependent on the dominant colour in the scene. When composing a scene in photography you can use these colours to enhance a particular feeling or mood that you want to convey. Colours can be bold and bright or pastel subdued shades and these can all have a completely different psychological effect on the viewer.
You’ve probably never thought about color in this way. That’s partly why it’s called the psychology of color. It is truly a powerful part of communicating, which is used on a daily basis in selling products. You’re probably saying this is all well and good, but what does it really have to do with your photography? Well why not use the same principles to help sell your message, your photograph or photography? I bet that if you look at your favorite photographs, whether your own or someone else’s, and you look at the colors and then read the above definitions, you’ll soon discover just how important color really is.
There are three primary colours; red, blue and yellow.
By mixing these colours the secondary colours, green, purple and orange are created.
Tertiary colours can be created by mixing a secondary colour with and adjacent secondary colour.
Psychology of Colours
Let’s look at some of the key colours and some examples of images that use the dominant colour to create an atmosphere and how these colours evoke a special emotion in the viewer.
- Passionate, Aggressive, Important
Red is a bold color that commands attention! Red gives the impression of seriousness and dignity, represents heat, fire and rage, it is known to escalate the body’s metabolism. Red can also signify passion and love. Red promotes excitement and action. It is a bold color that signifies danger, which is why it’s used on stop signs. Using too much red should be done with caution because of its domineering qualities. Red is the most powerful of colors.
As a dominating colour, red adds gravity and heightened awareness – quite literally, as the colour increases blood circulation, breathing rates, and metabolism. Red can take on a variety of meaning, associated with both love and war, but the unifying factor in all meanings is a sense of importance. Think of the red carpet.
Red is a colour best used cautiously. Its knack for attracting attention makes it a priceless tool for designers, but excessively it will inhibit relaxation. Lighter shades emphasize the energetic aspects of red – including youthfulness – while darker shades emphasize power, and even durability, such as a brick wall.
- Serene, Trustworthy, Inviting
Blue represents temperature, sky, water and ice. It is the second most powerful color. It obviously represents coolness, mist and shadows. In some applications it can represent peacefulness and calmness. And as pink represents femininity, blue represents masculinity. Blue is often associated with somber emotions like sadness, gloom and fear. Blue is a contemplative color, meaning intelligence and strength. It is one of the most politically correct colors there is with no negative connotations of it anywhere on the globe.
Blue is one of the most popular colours in web design – and for good reason. You see blue on a lot of websites because, to put it simply, it is the colour of trust. Blue is the colour of calm and serenity, and as such inspires security and a feeling of safety. For this reason, blue is a colour often used by banks: CitiBank, Chase, Capital One. However the calming effects also make blue a friendly and inviting colour, which explains its adoption by Facebook and Twitter.
- Happy, Friendly, Warning
Yellow is a strange colour: it is often associated with happiness, but also activates the anxiety center of the brain. Like red and orange, it’s able to stimulate and vitalize – it’s the colour of warning signs and taxis – but use bright yellow sparingly because of the potential negative connotations.
Lighter shades play on the happiness aspects, reminding users of summer and the sun. Darker shades, including gold, add more weight and give a sense of antiquity.
Yellow is the most visible color and is the first color the human eye notices! Yellow, the color nearest to “light” leaves a warm and satisfying impression, lively and stimulating and in many cultures symbolizes deity. Dark yellow can be oppressive while light yellow is breezy. Yellow’s stimulating nature and high visibility to the eye is the reason why many road signs are bold yellow (contrasted by black text). Yellow birds, flowers and skies are sure to be eye-catchers just because of the way the mind and eye works!
- Natural, Stable, Prosperous
Green is the most restful color for the human eye. It’s the universal color of nature as well as represents fertility, rebirth and freedom. (That answers the question why it’s the best background for birds.) Bright green can be uplifting while dark green evokes a mental picture of a pine forest. Street signs are painted a metallic green background contrasted with white letters because the combination is believed to be the easiest to read and recognize for the human brain. However, as with most colors, green also brings forth some negative connotations. The phrase “green with envy” also gives way to guilt, ghastliness, sickness and disease
Green mostly represents the environment and outdoors, for obvious reasons, making it the clear choice to suggest nature and an organic quality.
As the bridge between stimulating warm colours (red, orange, yellow) and calming cool colours (blue, purple), it is the most balanced of colours, lending it an air of stability. It’s also a popular choice as an accent or for calls-to-action because it stands out, but more softly than the warmer colours. In Western Culture, it also represents money and financial safety.
- Playful, Energetic, Cheap
Sharing red’s energizing aspects, but to a safer degree, orange is a good way to add excitement to a site without severity. It is generally playful, and some claim it creates haste and plays on impulse. It can even signify health, suggesting vitality and vibrance.
Orange is a good balance between the passionate red and the “yellow of wisdom.” Orange is symbolic of endurance, strength and ambition. It can represent the fire and flame of the sun. Orange is said to also have the cheerful effect of yellow, but is intensified in its closeness to the color red.
- Luxurious, Mysterious, Romantic
Purple is a mixture of somber blue and active red. It can represent coolness, mist and shadows. It symbolizes royalty and dignity and can be mournful, yet soft and lonely. Purple is described as an “unquiet color” being mysterious and mystic in a cultural sort of way. A study revealed that purple, the color of mourning among many peoples, meets with disapproval in six Asian countries.
Long associated with royalty, purple creates an air of luxury, even decadence. Using a purple dominantly is a quick way to create a sense of elegance or high-end appeal, even if your product is budget-minded (an “expensive” effect that’s quite the opposite of orange).
Lighter shades of purple bring to mind spring and romance, especially lavender. Darker shades of purple add more mystery, and can even symbolize creativity. Darkening the shade will also turn the romantic elements more sensual.
Black & White
- Clean, Simple, Powerful
Black is not a true colour as black is in fact the absence of colour whereas white is a colour as it is a blend of all colours. However pure black and white images can be used in photography as a powerful way to get over a message to the viewers. Black and white photography is used a lot to demonstrate powerful images focusing on the image itself without the distraction of full colour.
Black is associated with elegance and class (black-tie affair). It is the traditional color of fear, death and mourning. Look at the many terms using the word black to understand how it is perceived: “black sheep,” “black heart,” “black and blue” and “black mark.” Despite the negative imagery that black brings, it is a preferred color in many designs since it contrasts with most colors quite well. If used correctly, it promotes distinction and clarity in your images.
White symbolizes purity, innocence and birth. It’s closely associated with winter and can also represent surrender or truth. In the color spectrum, white is the union of all the colors. Its neutrality and conservative nature is widely accepted. Its simplicity and subtle quality makes it an ideal color for establishing clarity and contrast in your images.
Passionate Photographer …. Lost in Asia
Stuart Taylor of HighlanderImages Photography has been making images for over 25 years and can offer a diverse range of photo imaging services with a focus on Asia and a documentary/photojournalistic style. These services include planning and executing a photo shoot on location but importantly all the post-processing and image preparation needed for the specific finished media format required by the customer. Stuart’s experience and knowledge in all of these aspects makes HighlanderImages Photography a one-stop-shop for a comprehensive and professional image production service.
Stuart can be available for a variety individual assignments or projects and he specialises in areas such as photojournalism, commercial, architectural, real estate, industrial, interior design, corporate, urbex, adventure, wilderness and travel photography. Stuart can also offer some innovative and advanced techniques such as HDR (High Dynamic Range) and Panoramic Photography.
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