Emotional Images: how to add feeling with muted tones and harmonious color

Using harmonious color schemes

Emotional images in low-key color

Emotional images in low-key color

So far in this series we’ve looked at various ways of maximising the intensity and impact of color, but not all subjects suit this treatment.

Soft, muted hues can generate much more evocative, natural-looking effects than heavily saturated primary and complementary combinations.

And because they recede into the background more, they’re less likely to overwhelm your subject. These qualities make muted hues especially well suited to portraits, nude studies, still lifes and landscapes.

Shooting through morning haze, pollution, mist or fog is a sure-fire way to subdue colors. Because light is scattered more than usual, colors also merge together, detail is reduced and scenes are generally flattened – the perfect recipe for ‘layered’ telephoto landscapes and cityscapes.

Exercise caution with fog and heavy mist, though, because hues can be practically reduced to monochrome and detail can be severely compromised.

Overcast weather produces soft, diffused sunlight, which also makes colors appear less saturated and bright. This type of lighting is especially good for gentle, flattering portraits because it also helps to conceal blemishes and fine lines.

When you’re working with fill-in flash outdoors or studio flash indoors, fitting a light diffuser will reduce color contrast and intensity for a more delicate result. Keep brightly colored objects out of focus to lessen their impact and make them less distracting.

If you want strong colors to appear lighter and more pastel-like, try slightly overexposing your images by exposing for the shadows.

Shooting at fast ISOs to introduce more noise and coarse grain can subdue colors even more and give your images an almost ethereal quality. Throw in a soft focus filter and a warm-up or cool-down filter to intensify the effect still further.

PAGE 1: Choosing your color combinations
PAGE 2: Emotional images in low-key color
PAGE 3: Using harmonious color schemes
PAGE 4: Using the Monochrome palette
PAGE 5: Diffusing flash for softer colors


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