Colour is the essence of energy, excitement, mood and atmosphere in photography. But these things can be totally misread if you get your colours wrong. Welcome to a beginner’s guide on colour psychology for photographers.
Without getting too scientific about it colour psychology is about how colours make us feel. All colours have a relatable feeling based upon centuries of association and natural occurrence.
Choosing which colours in photographs can create a certain mood for a subject in the frame and also your audience looking at the photo.
Using colours correctly can enhance the feeling of an image with a strong message. It is another visual language that photographers use to make their audience react in a certain way. You can control the final feeling of a photo by using colours in the correct way.
But it is also possible to skew messages and make them unclear by not considering colour psychology.
For example, using cold and dark colours in a newborn portrait conflicts the expected feeling of it being joyful and uplifting.
Audiences may not know if this incorrect use of colour is intended or an accident therefore rendering the message of the image muddled. While it’s sometimes fun to change the expected reaction of an image, it should always look intentional and stylised.
Image: These images display incorrect use of colour psychology. Typically newborn images should feel warm and scenes of sadness are better enhanced with cooler tones.
As we said at the start all colours carry an associated feeling, sometimes more than one, but they all tend to be of a similar ilk. Let’s show you what some colours project and example images to back that up.
Red – lust, danger, warning, alarm
Blue – loyal, formal, business, royal
Green – environmental, refreshing, healthy, natural
Yellow – crazy, exciting, bold, energetic
White – pure, innocent, neutral, light, positive, clean
Purple – harmony, peaceful, relaxing, softs
On top of combining complementary colours it is important to research colour palettes that include more than 2 colours but still work together to create on universal mood. Check out below some of our custom combos and the moods they create.
Feel free to save these examples and use them in your editing as reference swatches.
Fingers crossed this guide will help you appreciate colour in a different light. Remember to consider everything in your frame when shooting.
If you’re not able to change your colours in-camera then use that trusty HSL slider in Lightroom to make local adjustments and set the right vibe!