Color Theory 101: Tips and Tricks


Have you ever wondered why some pictures look appealing while others look like a dull mush of colors? A lot of it has to do with the colors that are saturated & desaturated in your pictures.

Using a color wheel we can match colors that go together and others that clash. Using a Color Scheme Designer  it is easy to see what colors work and those that don't. Recently I have started to use Adobe Kuler for all my color theory and design.

When starting to learn color theory I used these tools all the time for selectively saturating and de-saturating different colors in my pictures. Sometimes it is impossible to de-saturate a color, it just turns brown or looks like crap. In this case try darkening the color using a dodge/burn layer or a curves mask in Photoshop will keep it from standing out.

I use tons of software when I process photos & two of my favorites are Topaz Labs or HDR Soft the Makers of Photomatix. If you would like a discount when purchasing either of these packages just use the coupon code DAVEMORROWPHOTO when checking out to receive 15% off:)

Here are a few more tricks that I use when processing:
For HDR photos I pick my color scheme while the pics are still in Lightroom 4 & RAW format. This is the best time to saturate and desaturate certain colors with optimum picture quality.

Seeing some tones in your pictures that are comply lifeless? Try using the Vibrance setting instead of saturation. In Photoshop I have some actions that allow me to make vibrance layers, that mask out the saturated areas. This allows me to "vibrance paint" the dead/dull colors only without over saturating everything else.

Color can also be used to portray mood & feeling throughout a picture so plan accordingly.

Let your picture pick the first color you are going to use for your scheme. If the picture is mostly blue saturate some yellows or oranges to compliment the over all color.


Closing notes:
Experiment as much as possible with different colors and how they work together, eventually you will no longer need the color wheel or scheme designer, but will find yourself knowing what to saturate and desaturate in your shots. This will increase the speed of your workflow as well as make post processing pictures much more enjoyable. It never hurts to pick complimenting colors when out shooting either, this makes it much easier to edit the picture later on.

Feel like you learned some valuable information? Donations of any size are always awesome!


Here are a few examples of pictures where I selectively applied color theory.

from www.DaveMorrowPhotography.comRead the full blog post -->http://www.davemorrowphotography.com/2014/05/painted-in-sky-lost-lake-oregon.htmlI've been wanting to get up to Lost Lake to shoot the Milky Way for a while now. After a few failed attempts in the past with clouds covering the sky I finally got a few shots I liked this past weekend.There were intermittent clouds, so I waited and waited and waited until the Mount Hood ( approx 11,000 feet ) and the Milky Way were visible to click off my shutter.In this photo I really wanted to convey the soft light and color tones that the stars leave on the water and surrounding landscapes when there is not much ambient city light to ruin the scene. After standing there long enough, and letting your eyes adjust, the stars twinkle brightly in the water.Thoughts, critique and comments always welcome!This is a single exposure processed in Lightroom & Photoshop. from www.DaveMorrowPhotography.comRead the full blog post here --> http://www.davemorrowphotography.com/2013/12/naiads-ghost-spirit-falls-washington.html Picture Lake Sunrise
Icelandic Fallsfrom www.DaveMorrowPhotography.com
32 Hours & Countingread more about my adventures in Iceland at www.DaveMorrowPhotography.com
The Wind & The Door
Day Break

11 comments:

Mark Highton Ridley said...

Interesting approach, slotted now into my subconscious! Thanks. (btw, it should be complEments, complEmentary etc. in this context.)

Dave Morrow said...

Hey Mark, glad you are gonna try it out. Let me know how it goes! ;)

Guy said...

Thanks so much for writing this article and sharing your techniques with the rest of us. You are a standup guy. Great article and will give this a try.

Matty Gilbert said...

Hi David, Great tip bud, will add to my arsenal!

Dave Morrow said...

Not a problem, it helps me to learn as well! glad you found some good material in there:) Enjoy!

Dave Morrow said...

Hey Matty, thank! Sounds good. I think color is often overlooked in photography. Have fun w that stuff!

David Morrow said...

Hey Matty, thank! Sounds good. I think color is often overlooked in photography. Have fun w that stuff!

David Morrow said...

Not a problem, it helps me to learn as well! glad you found some good material in there:) Enjoy!

David Morrow said...

Hey Mark, glad you are gonna try it out. Let me know how it goes! ;)

Joe Meirose said...

Thanks for sharing your technique and thoughts. I'm always eager to learn more.

David Morrow said...

cheers @Joe! You're welcome:)

Other Interesting Posts