Creating vs Recording Photography Series – Part 5:

Lastly, neutral colors – but not least! Consider neutrals to be black, gray, white, tan and brown. These are the colors that have a supporting role to the warms and cools. Black, gray and white are good companions to brighter colors. If you’re putting an emphasis on texture, use tans and browns as the image’s backdrop.

Black – Technically speaking, black is the absorption of all color in the light spectrum and considered the absence of color, therefore, not a color. But ask an artist who works with pigments and black will be defined as a color. (The discussion of how our cameras see black and how to shoot for black is for another time.) Black conveys a mixed baskets of feelings. Black can mean danger, death and evil. It can also feel powerful, sophisticated and edgy. Black can feel grounding.

“In order to change a color it is enough to change the color of its background.”

– Michel Eugene Chevreul

Gray – A mix of black and white, gray feels neutral, adds a sense of formality or it can feel gloomy. Gray strikes a nice balance to offset bright colors if black or white is too strong a contrast.

White – Again, technically, white is the reflection of all color in the light spectrum and considered to contain all color. An artist may say white is the absence of pigment so it’s not a color, but it’s considered a color in the scientific world. The feeling that white gives us is that of clean, healthy, virtuous, thus the saying, “She’s as clean as the driven snow.” White is a color that attracts the eye, so be deliberate about how you use it as the subject or to emphasis the subject. Otherwise, the viewer’s eye may be drawn away from the subject to the white areas in the image.

Tan – What is there to say about tan? It’s boring beige, right? Not so fast. Tan is more interesting than you think. It takes on the characteristics of the colors around it. Tan is non-threatening and can be used as a complement to the subject of an image. Unlike white, tan is less likely to draw the eye away from the subject.

Brown – Perhaps underrated when up against brighter colors, brown can be use to add a sturdy, earthy or rustic sense to the image. As stated earlier, it can be used to emphasis texture. Brown can also enhance the feeling of another color, such as blue or green, or tone down a more energized color such as yellow or red.

This blog article concludes the discussion of using color as a graphic design tool in photographic images. We urge our readers to review our prior blogs in this series to begin your journey “to see beyond the labels.”

You may find earlier articles here.

Coming up in our next issue…. The Power of Lines


How Color Impacts Emotions & Behaviors, by Alllison S. Gremillion

Twelve Colours & the Emotions They Evoke, by Jerry Cao

Color Science: How Popular Colors Make Us Feel Different Emotions, by Danny Groner

How Color Affects Our Mood, by Rachel Grumman Bender

Are Black & White Colors?

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