Understanding colour is a fundamental part of photography as it’s one of the first things you notice when looking at an image. Master how best to use colour and you’ll soon see an improvement in your pictures.
Colour has a strong visual pull, so it makes sense to always use it to your advantage. For example, if the focal point of your picture is where the main source of colour is, the viewers' eyes will naturally be drawn to where you want them, adding strength to your image.
As colour is an important part of most pictures you need to use it wisely. If you've got lots of distracting colours, all competing with each other, it can be difficult to see what's going on. This is especially true if you've got lots of clashing colours situated around your main subject.
Different colours are known to have a different impact on us. Generally speaking red is related to energy, danger and excitement and really draws attention. Yellow tends to give a bright and cheery feel, whilst blues and greens lend a cool and calm atmosphere. Personal taste is another important element. A colour that has positive associations for one person won't necessarily have positive associations for everyone.
Soft shades work equally well in photographs as brighter ones; they just have a different feel. With muted tones it's more about lending a specific mood or atmosphere to a photograph, rather than opting for the instant impact of bright colours.
Colour can be used to add interest in other ways. Repeating patterns work well in pictures but are often more interesting when broken up with a single object in a completely contrasting colour. Simple sets up using just two bold colours also make really striking pictures.
The strength and direction of the light on an image can dramatically alter the way the colours appear in your photographs. For example, a red brick wall bathed in warm afternoon sunlight has a far richer feel than in bright overhead sunlight, or on a cloudy day. It's well worth thinking about which direction you want the light to be coming from to get the best effect.
With photo editing software you can have great fun playing around with the colours in your photos. By boosting the contrast and saturation you can deepen colours to a more attractive shade. Likewise you can carry out colour correction when your camera's white balance control has let you down and given your image a strange colour cast. Many editing packages even enable you to pick out colours within a shot, such as turning a red t-shirt into a green one, or whatever colour you prefer!