Punch Up The Color

Green. To create an eco-friendly image, green is your color. Green symbolizes the natural world, spring growth and good health. Green creates a soothing feeling and promotes harmony with the surrounding environment. Many advertisers use green to convey an underlying tone to the product they’re advertising. If you’re selling a medicine that makes people healthy and eliminates their stress, green is a good choice. I was hired to shoot images to illustrate how visiting Alaska “brought you back to nature.” We used numerous sweeping green tundra landscapes to help convey this feeling.

Orange. Orange is another eye-catching color that attracts the viewer’s attention. Think of how many distress symbols and objects use orange—safety vests, traffic cones, buoys. Orange stimulates creativity, enthusiasm and appetite. It also represents warmth. Similar to red, I like to use orange in my adventure-sports imagery. Orange is hard to ignore and bound to get a reaction from the viewer, a great choice for a gripping adventure-sports shot. Climbers summiting a peak look terrific in bright colors. Orange parkas create tension and interest in the shot, perfect for the image concept. If you have blue skies in the shot, then you have a dynamic complementary color pattern. Put the same climbers on the summit in brown coats, and you may not even see them. You don’t want calm, relaxing colors in this image as they defeat the image concept of determination, perseverance and endurance.

Purple. Purple (or violet) signifies uniqueness and royalty. Purple is a good choice to show something that’s special. Purple is also uplifting and calming, and a color used to reflect spirituality. If I wanted to photograph a woman practicing yoga and really focus in on the spirituality of the image, purple would be a good choice to use in the image.

Examples: Color And Image Concepts

Now that you have an unde
rstanding of primary and secondary color meanings, let’s look at a few examples of how color contributes to the image concept.

Take a look at these two kayaking images. One image is whitewater kayaking, the other image is sea kayaking, but the image concepts are totally opposite.


The whitewater kayaker is paddling off a 60-foot waterfall, a very bold, risky activity. This image is about drama, danger and action. The kayaker’s boat is red, the perfect color to support this feeling. Would blue or green be a good choice for his boat? Absolutely not; these colors wouldn’t be harmonious with the other design elements and would weaken the image concept.

Next, look at the sea kayaking shot. This is a person kayaking on a calm, foggy morning in Prince William Sound, Alaska. I want to convey the wilderness feel and peaceful nature of this activity. In this case, a blue boat is the best choice. Blue conveys cool and calm, perfect for this concept. Green also would work well, but red and orange would be a step in the wrong direction for this image concept.

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