Colour relationships

This exercise is split into two parts. In the first part of the exercise, we were asked to take opposite colours in the colour wheel (complimentary colours) and compose three photographs, using the correct ratios of each of the three sets of colours within the frame, given so because of their strength or intensity. The colour combinations and ratios are as follows:

Red: green – 1:1

Orange: blue – 1:2

Yellow: violet – 1:3

In the second part of the exercise we were asked to do a similar thing but with any colours that appeal to us as the photographer, using any ratios we please. This is to demonstrate that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when using colour in photography, only guidelines.

Part one

Red: green – 1:1

Red- green (1-1)

For the first image, I chose a close-up of a red textured surface with heavy moss growth on it. I think that perhaps the ratio is very slightly more red than green, but it still works very well. Because each of the colours are equally as bold and rich, the ratio also has to be equal to achieve a good balance. The two colours really are complimentary.

Orange: blue – 1:2

Orange- blue (1-2)

The ratio in this image is roughly 1:2 and the two colours complement each other very well. Had the subject been illuminated rather than sitting in shadow, I think that they would have complemented each other better. Overall, a very balanced and pleasing image.

Yellow: violet – 1:3

Yellow- violet (1-3)

For this image, I chose a hedgerow plant. It was already displaying the approximate ratio of both colours, which was ideal. I used a fixed focal length lens with an aperture of f/1.8 in an attempt to merge the colours together in the background to cover a larger area and be more perceptible. Superlatively, the other colours in the background have been muted slightly making the violet and yellow more dominant.

Part two

Black, red and white

Black, red, white

I know that technically black and white aren’t colours, but I do like them in certain combinations; especially when used together. I like the contrast of the large amount of black and the small amount of white in this image, I can’t quite work out a optimum ratio for these colours, I think perhaps 3:2:1.

Green on green

Green on green

I think that often more than one shade of the same colour can be a good combination, especially if there are no other colours present in the image. The hose pipe looks almost a blue-green colour against the grass.

Green, yellow and purple

Green, yellow, purple

This is a very interesting and colourful image of different types of beetroot growing in a kitchen garden. The combination of yellow, purple and green is one of my favourite combinations of colours to find in the natural world and is very vibrant and engaging.

Yellow, red and orange 

Yellow, red, orange

I love this colour combination because all of these colours are all close to each other on the colour wheel, I think that, like opposites work together, so do colours that are similar. It is almost reminiscent of a rainbow taken from a small portion of the colour spectrum.


In this exercise I have learned that there are no rules to adhere to when using colour in photography, but there are guidelines which, when followed, can produce more aesthetically pleasing images. I also feel that there can be combinations of colours that work very well because they are so similar, not just because they are opposites; it is hard for them not to complement each other when they are so similar in my opinion. I think this only works when colours are split into two groups: warm and cool, however, contradictory to my opinion, complimentary colours in the primary and secondary colour wheel are perfect marriages of both warm and cool colours.


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