Color Harmony and Photography
Photography from an equipment operation stand point is beautifully simple. You only have three mechanical features to control, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. So once you’ve mastered those, its time to start looking at color. And here’s where photography goes from simple to a vast expanse of no right or wrong answer. There is a scientific approach to literally everything in life, even creative things. The nice thing with photography is, if you even do one of these rules of thumb, you’ll end up with great results. Start combining them together and you’ll get legendary results. Hopefully you understand at least the rule of thirds, headroom, negative space, and the golden ratio before continuing.
Starting off, after I’ve taken a ton of pictures, I select the ones I’ll edit based on the things mentioned above and…
I work within the tertiary color wheel. There’s some simple rules associated with this! And its also what assists me when going through images as to what I know will look good or not after editing. Simply put, if the colors aren’t right, I’m not going to spend a bunch of time in post processing changing them. This also plays a large factor in an individuals style. It would be hard to remember all of them!
Personally I tend to stick with the Analogous and Split complementary, with a slight desaturation. Here’s a few examples of my own work abiding by these color guides.
Some more desaturated than others. I’ve adjusted the color wheel saturation to help illustrate exactly what I’m talking about.
Analogous colors on the blue side makes for a cool toned image!
The split complementary really can make great color contrast. In this example the strongest colors are the warm tones and the underlying shadows I’ve added a blue tint to.
Another analogous color mix on the warm side
Now not all images are going to be instantly perfect within your chosen color spectrum. Luckily Photoshops RAW editor has a nifty trick to get around this! To start open an image in photoshop. Don’t worry if its a raw file or JPEG. Itll work the same either way.
If its a RAW file, Photoshop will open the editor by default. If its a JPEG we’ll need to access photoshops RAW editor. You can use keyboard shortcut (CTRL+SHIFT+A) or go to the menu (Filter – Camera raw filter). Step two, click on the HSL adjustment button. Circled in red in the image above.
Once you click on the HSL button, it will usually default to the HUE tab. We want the Saturation tab. Now step two, I’m sure you can probably guess. Desaturate the non dominant colors in the image coinciding with the color wheel you’ve chosen from above.
I will use a gradual approach to this to keep things looking more natural. Much easier to do with a analogous color style, but still works well with all of them. This is a more advanced approach to editing, so play with it a bit. It might take a while to get the hang of it, and also keep in mind this wont work with every image! If you have to desaturate too much then it will just come out looking bad. However its a great way to get perfect colors. Thanks for reading and good luck!
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