It’s a gray day in San Diego (yeah, I know, crazy) so I’m feeling the need to add a bit of color into life: meet the color wheel. Color Wheel, you. You, color wheel. Now that you’ve been properly introduced…color-wheelFirst, a view into the dorkiness that is me: I loooooooove color wheels. I still remember the first time I learned about the color wheel, I was in sixth grade art class wearing one of my dad’s old button down shirts, backwards, as my art smock….I even remember the assignment we got that day: create an abstract painting using two complimentary colors. Mine was purple and yellow. Seriously, just LOOK at that color wheel. Isn’t it just gorgeous?? …. I told you I was a dork.


Next, definitions.


1) Primary Colors: Traditionally, the primary colors are red, blue and yellow. Originally, it was thought that these colors could be combined in different ways to create all other colors on the color wheel. Eventually, this was disproven but the thought still prevails.


2) Complimentary Colors: The colors found directly across from one another on the color wheel–blue/orange, purple/yellow, red/green. Two colors are complimentary if, when mixed together, they create a neutral gray color. As a fun side note, when you stare at one color for an extended period of time then look at a white piece of paper/wall/etc, the color’s complimentary color will “appear” in the white area. Neat, huh?


3) Analogous Colors: These are the colors found next to each other on the color wheel, such as orange, yellow-orange and yellow.


So why do the color wheel and these definitions matter? Because color matters. Color breathes life into photos, creates harmony or discord, evokes emotion and associations–powerful stuff when creating strong images.


Take a look at these examples:


1) Primary colors have the potential to evoke emotions of simplicity, purity, strength, especially when combined with strong lines and simple objects (here I use blue and red as my primary colors):




2)Using complimentary colors can create interesting contrasts and highlight certain things within the image (notice the orange hair/freckles and blue necklace):




3) Analogous colors have a harmonious, calming effect and add to the serenity of an image (here, yellow/yellow-green/green with a pop of white and black neutrals):




Next time you’re out and about with your camera, pay attention to color as you’re shooting: color is your friend.


Happy shooting!

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