Creating vs Recording Photography Series – Part 3:

Color is all around us, whether we’re in the mountains watching a sunrise from East Fork Overlook or sitting in front of our computer monitors. Human beings are hardwired to respond to colors. For photographers, paying attention to and understanding the powerful meaning of the colors used in our images is equivalent to taking a giant step toward connecting emotionally with those who view our images.

“Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.”

Pablo Picasso

In our last blog, “How to Create with Color,” we stated that “color may be the most emotionally impactful tool visual artists have at their disposal.” A photographer who wants to move up to the next level, will benefit by understanding and controlling color. Don’t believe it? It’s been shown that warm colors (red, orange, yellow) often create feelings of happiness, optimism and energy. Cool colors (green, blue, purple) evoke feelings of calm, trust and security. For eons, psychologists, behavioral scientists, artists, designers, and consumer product marketers have researched how people respond to different colors and color combinations, and have applied their findings to create appropriate impressions. For example, while warm colors evoke happiness and energy, orange and yellow can slightly irritate the eyes and red can stimulate the metabolism. Can you think of a famous fast food restaurant that combines red and yellow? The point is – get hungry and eat fast.

While commercial photographers may be more purposeful in their selection of color in their work, it does the rest of us no harm, only good, to understand how colors make us feel and apply that knowledge to our images.

Considerations about Colors –

Effects of color are subjective to the culture of the viewer and/or his or her experiences in life. If Grandpa Joe drove a pea green pickup truck and he always brought you candy, you may be partial to pea green because it makes you feel loved, while someone else may be reminded of a bad school lunch and think pea green is gross.

Vibrancy and like shades of a color, whether dark or light, carry subtle differences in meaning. For example, light yellow can feel like sunshine, summer, and happiness, while dark yellow, such as gold, adds weight and can convey antiquity.

Warm Colors –

Red – Red may be the mother of all colors, as it’s the warmest and most dynamic. If you want to draw attention to an element in your image, make it red, but make the element an accent, as red can be overwhelming immasse. Why? Because red is a stimulating color that increases circulation, breathing rates and metabolism. (A kitchen painted in a warm shade of red stimulates appetite.) Red can communicate passion and love, but it also can be an aggressive color that means anger or danger. Red gives importance to an object. The color heightens the viewer’s awareness. Think of “the red carpet” as you enter a grand hotel or walk down the runway at a Hollywood awards program.

Orange – Less severe than red, orange gives a sense of vitality, optimism, and joy. Orange can be inspiring, playful and energetic. Orange draws the viewer’s attention, like red, and shows movement, but it’s not as overpowering. Orange is aggressive, but balanced. It conveys energy, while still being an inviting and friendly color.

Yellow – Yellow is the most energetic of the warm colors. Think of it as a stimulant. Too much yellow can cause an overreaction in the anxiety center of the brain. While yellow creates feelings of hope and cheerfulness, too much can be irritating. Interior design reports warn that a bedroom painted yellow can cause disagreements to erupt. Use yellow sparingly to grab attention and create energy in a comforting way. For large areas, look for shades and variation in the yellow tones.

Coming up in our next issue…. How Colors Make Us Feel – Cool Colors

Sources:

How Color Impacts Emotions & Behaviors, by Allison 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

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