Description:Term: Complementary Colors Description: Complementary colors are simply colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Rather than complimenting each other (as people often think), they cancel each other out; a mixture of them would produce a greyscale color.
Find tips on how to use complementary colors in photography below and in our guest article on Adorama's "42 West" blog.
What are Complementary Colors?
When it comes to art and photography, colors are everything. They embody so much and they’re able to evoke and convey the feelings of both the artist and the observer. There are numerous color schemes out there, but today we will be discussing one of the most basic and popular concepts – complementary colors.
Complimentary or Complementary Colors
This isn’t English class but it’s easy to see why people get these mixed up. Complementary colors are simply colors that are directly opposite each other on the color wheel. Rather than complimenting each other (as people often think), they cancel each other out; a mixture of them would produce a greyscale color.
Classic examples include red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple. Used side-by-side, they create quite an eye-catching, intensely contrasting look.
Complementary Colors in Photography
Photography takes more than just pointing a camera at an object and clicking a button. There’s a lot to learn about lighting, exposure, colors, and more.
Perhaps one of the most important topics in photography is color theory. Most times, a photograph can capture and hold one’s attention, not because of the object, but because of the colors in it. Using strong color combinations is key.
This is where complementary colors come in. Granted, they give a strong contrast next to each other, but they also add depth to a scene. The two colors achieve this in a rather ingenious way. The warm color appears to come forward while the cooler color appears to go back, while the former project out.
You can apply this principle in your photography to make your images “pop”. With this, you can grab a viewer’s attention with just a glance. Consider making the object of the picture to have the warmer color and using the cooler one as the background.
Be careful with complementary colors in photography
You’re probably wondering why you have to be careful if the combination is so great. Well, it’s easy to go over the top with these combinations. When this happens, it takes away from the primary object of the photograph.
If you take a shot and notice that the colors are popping too much, your best bet is to soften them. You can do this by adding a little bit of white to the base color.
Here’s how you can apply this to improve your photography skills
For starters, you must get familiar with the color wheel. Understand which colors are complementary to each other and work with that idea. Take a couple of shots of objects in your surroundings you think might be just right.
In the image below, notice how the much warmer orange is ‘popping’ compared to the blue background. You can find more of those around you or recreate them to practice.
Image from Unsplash
Next is to learn how to edit them, not change them entirely. You could increase or reduce the depth or intensity of one color and so on.
Ultimately, for your photographs to turn out amazing, more than snapping is required. Use your knowledge of complementary colors to your advantage.
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