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Posted 07-04-09 at 01:28 AM by kennykodak
Updated 07-04-09 at 04:09 PM by kennykodak

Color: Wow where do I start with this one?

I know, letís start with black & whiteÖ your eye naturally goes to the point of greatest contrast in an image. What is contrast? The difference between absolute black (0 value or the left wall of your histogram) and absolute white (255 value or the right wall of your histogram). A high key print (a print where the majority of tones are above middle grey, 18%) is crafted with shadow and those shadows would be the point of greatest contrast. Whereas a low-key print (a print where the majority of tones are below middle grey) the image is crafted with highlights and yep your eye would go to them. So quite simply put, your eye goes to any point that is brighter or darker than the average. As a photographer you can use this knowledge to direct the viewerís to exactly where you want them to go. Always remember we are not making snapshots if we are serious, we are telling a story.

Enter color; all of the above still applies however it moves to the next level. Quite simply hereís what you need to remember:
1. Hot colors project
2. Cool colors recede
Letís start off easy. Suppose you photograph a daisy and youíre mindful to use the rule of thirds. Maybe itís on the right hand bottom. Yellow is a hot color, green is a cool color. The daisy is lighter than the grass, your eye is going to go it ďWithout Passing GO.Ē Now suppose something is in the background and itís out of focus but it is red, another hot color. Now you donít go straight to the subject but are distracted by an obstacle. Not only do hot colors stand out in the crowd but they play mind games as well.
Ever notice that all of the fast food joints are hot colors? Makes you order fast, order large, eat fast and leave. Colors really do change moodÖ I studied with Dean Collins years ago. He had the room next to me and my roommate David Ziser. Dean told us that he was slightly colorblind and didnít do pink. He said that he worked for a while in an institution where they painted the walls pink to keep the patients mellow. That was a long time ago but I think today where boys and girls basically are raised and schooled the same (here at least) sissy is a more passive than bubba because her room is pink and his blue. Does color suggest something? I wrote about placing meat next to green astro turf to make it appear red (fresher). Purple suggest yellow optically but it is perceived as royalty. White could be purity but in Asian countries they wear it in morning. Blue is the universal ďIím friendly color.Ē Beige suggests, ďTrust me.Ē Orange, yellow and red are hot colors that create excitement. A high-end restaurant would either use pastels or earth tones so that their patrons would relax and have another drink, as there is more profit and less effort in drink than cuisine. Okay so how do we use this? Suppose three sisters stop by for a portrait for their mom (mum to you). Letís also assume that they never got the memo on how to dress. Two wear cool colors whereas the third wears red. Okay, put the one in red in the middle? Well thatís a good start but we are not going to have them just stand in a straight line. Place the two in cool colors up front and turn them into each other. I know that some of you donít like to be conformed to rules but there are reasons for them and before you break them, itís good to know the cause and effect. Rule: a body should be off axis 15-20 degrees to camera. This is a thinning thing that most folks will gladly comply with. While Iím thinning people, did you know that sleeveless dresses make the subject appear one dress size heavier? Back to the sisters, the two in cool colors are turned towards each other. The sister in the hot color is elevated and placed behind the front two. The composition is a triangle as opposed to a horizontal line. Iíll talk about what lines suggest another time. Well now, two cools in front and one hot in the back. First of all we have minimized the hot color. What little remains projects forward pulling the person in the back up with the front row. If you set the red dress in front and the blue and green ones in the back, the cool dresses and their wearers would become nothing more than a background for the lady in red up front. Oh yeah one more thing about this shot, donít use a wide-angle setting. Near objects projects project and far objects recede. Itís one thing to make red played down and itís quite another to make them a pinhead.
Total Comments 5


  1. Old Comment
    Amazing information on colour John thank you.
    Posted 07-04-09 at 12:18 PM by
  2. Old Comment
    Autumn's Avatar
    "While I’m thinning people, did you know that sleeveless dresses make the subject appear one dress size heavier?"

    Remind me always to wear sleeves!

    I would love to see a photograph of what you have described John. Do you have an example?
    Posted 13-04-09 at 09:22 PM by Autumn Autumn is offline
  3. Old Comment
    kennykodak's Avatar
    i'll have dig a little. always keep the subject 15-20 degrees off axis from the camera as well. never shoot directly into someone's shoulder (football shoulder,"American" style.)
    Posted 13-04-09 at 09:31 PM by kennykodak kennykodak is offline
  4. Old Comment
    [QUOTE=Autumn;bt171]"While Iím thinning people, did you know that sleeveless dresses make the subject appear one dress size heavier?"

    Remind me always to wear sleeves!

    I would love to see a photograph of what you have described John. Do you have an example?[/QUOTE]

    I would guess that wearing something sleeveless would accentuate the size of the fleshy area of the arm because the eye would perceive the lightened area slightly larger than it actually is. Unless you have a tight model's physique, I would always recommend sleeves or else 'cover' the arms up by careful positioning with other people or tight cropping if the model is alone.
    Posted 13-04-09 at 09:48 PM by
  5. Old Comment
    kennykodak's Avatar
    you are correct. most wedding dresses here are sleeveless. this isn't a problem until you pose intimate close-ups. i try position the bride's veil over her arms and have the groom place his hand over it to hold it in place and to hide even more (especially his left hand with the wedding ring.) this cuts down the perceived bulk of the arm and shoulder.
    Posted 13-04-09 at 10:02 PM by kennykodak kennykodak is offline

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