Color Photography: understanding complementary colors

Composing photos boldly

Allow for a dominant color

Allow for a dominant color

Earlier we mentioned that color contrasts aren’t the only way to add impact, and that tonal contrasts can strengthen the effect.

There’s a third way to add contrast, and that’s using relative size. Two complementary colors taking up an equal amount of the frame can simply ‘fight’ with each other and produce an unsatisfactory image.

But if one color is dominant and the other occupies only a small part of the frame, you are – paradoxically – making the color contrast stronger, not weaker.

The two colors don’t have to be equal in prominence. Indeed, a small subject can actually gain prominence because it’s so small.

Remember, then, that contrasting colors don’t necessarily have to be identical in brightness or the relative size of the area they take up, and that color contrast can be made stronger still by brightness and size variations.

PAGE 1: Using opposite colors on the color wheel
PAGE 2: Allow for a dominant color
PAGE 3: Composing photos boldly


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