A photographer colour theory crash course

Tim Wells
4 min readMay 14, 2021

As photographers, especially while you’re learning to be a photographer it’s not that common that when framing up an image to take a shot, you find yourself thinking about colours. Even later on when you download the images from the camera to your pc to do some post processing, it’s not the first thing that goes through your head.

However, it’s one of those often overlooked things that can have a huge impact on how the viewer perceives your image and the story your photograph tells. Colour theory is a topic that looks at how colours impact your photos and even videos. It’s widely used in all forms of visual media as a way to help tell a story when someone views that media. It doesn’t matter if it’s a business logo or a photograph or the next blockbuster film. They all use colour theory to get their point across.

Using certain colours can help instill a particular feeling to the viewer.

Colour meanings

Did you know colours have meanings? Well, it’s more of a general sort of guide.

Red

The colour red invokes feelings of danger, blood, passion, strength, war and that sort of thing. Lots of red in an image can make it feel powerful or dangerous.

Purple

Purple is all about royalty, nobility, wealth, power, ambition and mystery.

Blue

Blue is about tranquility, stability, trust, sky, sea and those sorts of things.

Yellow

Yellow gives feelings of sunshine, joy, happiness, intellect and attention.

Green

Green is about nature, growth, freshness, healing, fertility and safety.

Orange

Orange is success,creativity,warmth etc.

Surfing at sunrise. by Tim Wells

The yellow tones in the image above are meant to convey the happiness of the surfer heading out for his morning surf as the sun rises over the water and a new day starts.

Colour Relationships

The use of colour relationships can help to give an image an overall feeling of consistency and coherence. In the image above of the surfer it is a very monochromatic colour…

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Tim Wells

Self taught software developer and photographer.