Color Wheel Complementary Colors

How to use Color Wheel Complementary Colors in Photography

How to Take Great Color Pictures #03 – Color Wheel Complementary Colors

Everyone interested in photography should have a deep understanding of basic color theory. Knowing how certain combinations of colors develop very different moods and effects.

The most basic tool for understanding how colors work together is the color wheel. Colors located close together on the color wheel are known as harmonious colors while complementary colors are located on opposite sides of the color wheel.

Color Wheel Complementary Colors

Complementary colors work well with dynamic subjects.

How to Use Complementary Colors

A good first step is to start being on the look out for harmonious and complementary colors when shooting pictures. Harmonious color combinations usually create images that are calming and peaceful.

Complementary colors are much more dynamic. They sometimes can clash in a very ugly way, but can also produce bold contrasts and vibrant images. Skillful use of complementary colors can add movement, tension, and excitement to your photography.

Examples of Color Wheel Complementary Colors

This example uses a background and subject that are strong complementary colors. The green backdrop makes the red strawberry really jump out. This effect works very well with the dynamic composition of the falling fruit and splashing water.

The next example also uses color wheel complementary colors to create a wonderful effect. The majority of the frame is a slate grey or icy blue tone which strongly emphasizes the small red leaf. The overall composition of the slanting coast line is dynamic and draws your eye across the image, where the bright leaf provides a pleasing end point.

Use Color Wheel Complementary Colors

In general, try not to combine colors that are neither similar nor opposite. Images like this tend to feel watered down and uninteresting. Make a decision that works with your subject and composition then stick with it. If you keep adding more ideas, soon you end up loosing them all.

More Color Wheel Complementary Colors

The coastline compels your eye to move across the image before resting on the red leaf in the foreground.

A photographer must know the color wheel but need not treat it as a set of unbreakable rules. It is simply a good rule of thumb that is useful for understanding why some images work and others don’t.

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