Colour Theory

During 2020 I ran a photography challenge over on my travel blog looking at different techniques throughout the year. I was not expecting that the year itself would prove to be a challenge in that the Covid-19 pandemic hit us and not only put paid to any travel plans, but also altered the way in which we conducted our lives. This year I am going to look at those techniques again using new photographs as and when I get the opportunity.

August was about the use of Colour Theory. Successful colour photography means learning to use colour as a compositional tool – a form of visual communication – rather than just reproducing a scene that happens to be in colour.

Colour theory is not just knowing what colours are: primary, tertiary etc and how to make them, but understanding cool and warm colours, complementary (next to each other) and contrasting colours (opposites), neutral and bold colours and how colours can affect our emotions or perceptions of a scene.

  • Don’t overdo it. Too much colour or too many clashing colours can be confusing to the eye and create a chaotic scene.
  • If you are not happy with the colour in your image then try adjusting the saturation in post-processing. Think about the feeling you want to convey with your image before deciding how much or how little saturation would best suit the scene.
  • An image with lower saturation seems softer, dreamy and idealistic.
  • An image with high saturation seems bright and exciting.

I haven’t had chance to practice my skills this month as I have been without a car since the end of June and to get anywhere by bus involves a 20 minute scoot down the hill and a rather laborious 30 minutes puffing back. Some of the route is shaded by the woodland, but half of it is in full sun and it’s been a bit too hot for me. So here are just a few of the colour shots taken this month in and around my garden.

Bright and bold flowers: Nature seems to get it right in the way it combines colours.

Pay attention to the way you frame colour and use light and shade to enhance it.

Opposites attract

Look out for colour combinations – take this bright violet-blue echinops flower with the opposite primary colour being provided by the yellow stripes of the bee.
In this image the pink and the purple of the flowers stand out from the background of green (opposites) with the orange of the butterfly adding a clash of colour.

Consider the time of day and the type of light which can affect how different colours appear.

The blue hour is the period of twilight when the Sun is at a significant depth below the horizon. During this time, the remaining light takes on a mostly blue shade.
Twilight is the light from the sky between sunset and full night produced by diffusion of sunlight through the atmosphere and its dust. Here the sky has all the pastel shades of sweet sugared almonds.
During August the colour of the sky as the sun sets has been predominantly pink, ranging from pale shades to deep carmine pink. Here is an example of sky-blue pink.

If you would like to have a look at the different techniques covered throughout the year then you can see them here. Please note that I am not running this as a challenge, but merely using the old one as inspiration for my photography this year.


  1. Mother Nature does colour theory to perfection.

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