Plant Photography: Color

Helianthus annuus_Sunflower_DBG_LAH_6805

My final post on photographing plants, in all their forms, deals with one of my favorite aspects of photography—color. My dad was an avid photographer as well, but he preferred to shoot a medium format camera loaded with black and white film. Then he’d disappear into his darkroom and spend hours dodging and burning, doing his best to emulate Ansel Adams.

Me? I want color, and the more, the better. Happily, gardens are colorful places.

Color wheelWe’ve all seen a color wheel. Similar colors are adjacent, contrasting colors are opposite. I keep that color wheel in mind when I’m out shooting pictures, especially when my focus is on flowers.

First of all, photos can be monochromatic—all one color.

Color intensity may also be referred to as saturation. Pure primary colors are the most intense. We add black or white to darken or lighten them. For example, blue is at full intensity, navy or baby blue is not. We can also add another color. Aqua is blue with some white and green added.

A monochromatic photo can include differing intensities—such as deep purple and lilac, or, as with these roses, various pinks or yellows.

If monochromatic images sound boring, try combining colors that are opposites—red and green, purple and orange, blue and yellow. Placing opposite colors next to one another makes them stand out. Opposites create tension; they wake you up!

On the other hand, harmonious colors are relaxing. These are color wheel neighbors— red (or pink) and purple, yellow and green. They blend into one another, soothing the eye. There are no harsh contrasts.

Impatiens trials@CSU jul02 LAH 2

Colors are also characterized as either warm (red, orange, yellow) or cool (green, blue, purple). Warm colors energize us; Cool colors calm us. What mood are you trying to create in your photo?

Finally, sometimes color simply gets in the way. Perhaps you want to emphasize a flower’s form, or the texture of a leaf. By converting your photo into a grayscale image, you remove the distraction.

hen10We’ve covered a lot of ground in the last few months. I’ve offered plenty of tips and suggestions. I’ve even included some “rules.” But remember, above all, photography is creative. Go ahead, break the rules. Try something different. See what pleases you. Have fun. Even if none of your photos come out the way you intended, you’ve just spent a lovely day in the garden.

One thought on “Plant Photography: Color

  1. How interesting to learn your dad was a photographer as well! You have such an amazing gift…so glad you are willing to share.

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