Primary and secondary colours

For this exercise, we were asked to photograph each of the six primary and secondary colours on the colour wheel and match them as closely as we could. The assignment was to photograph each one of them three times, varying the exposure by half a stop above and below the optimum to get the closest match. We were then asked to choose one photograph from each set that best matched the colour on the colour wheel. I tried to avoid colours on man-made surfaces such as paint, but this made the assignment quite difficult given the time of year.

Fallen Autumn Leaf (Yellow)


This is an image of a fallen autumn leaf. I chose this leaf because it was amongst vegetation and dominated the image, although there is more green than yellow within the frame. The image I chose from the set was surprisingly the ‘+1 exposure’. I say this because of the lack of correspondence to the objective of the previous exercise. I also think that this is the best exposed image of the set which is also surprising given the experience of the previous exercise, I think that this could be due to the lighting conditions and the minimum aperture of f/5.6 owing to the focal length used.

‘Conen the Barbarian’ (Orange)


The distinctive angry face on this vandalised traffic cone caught my eye as I was on my travels and the colour matches that of the colour wheel very closely. Again, contrary to the experience of the previous exercise, the ‘+1 exposure’ better matched the orange on the colour wheel; however, the conditions and settings were similar to that of the first image.

The Arrogance of Autumn (Red)


Although this rich and vibrant red doesn’t fill the frame, it dominates because of its sheer eloquence. Staying true to the consistency of the exercise, this is a ‘+1 exposure’ as the red best matches that of the red in the colour wheel; a smaller aperture and low lighting conditions were a result of this.

The Veins and Capillaries of The Earth (Violet)


Consistent with the nature of the subject, the colour in this image is very delicate but abundant. projected from the image by the contrast of dark and light, the violet colour dominates the image and is quite close to that of the colour wheel. There are quite a few shades of violet present in this image, but the strongest appears to be the one that closest matches the necessary colour.

‘Reaching for the Sky’


The sky was a natural choice when presented with the task of matching the colour blue. Contradictory to the previous images, I chose the ‘-1 exposure’ for the colour blue because the light was in abundance, partly owing to the larger minimum aperture used. Interestingly, in order to get the close match to blue, I have had to really underexpose the green foliage, almost to the point that it is a silhouette. There is very little light illuminating the foliage.

Plant Harmony


There are a lot of shades of green in the world, this is the colour I found the hardest to match because of this. This was the image that I settled on, although there are a lot of shades of green, the most abundant shade seems to be almost the same colour as that of the colour wheel; I think it is often how the colour is light and what kind of light it is the can determine the shade recorded by the camera. This was a ‘+1 exposure’ again, but it seems to be the shadow detail that best matches the colour. So, why when the highlighted areas are exposed less, does it not match the colour as well? Good question. This bring me back to the type of light used, and I believe that it can also depend on the light temperature.


I have concluded that the shade or richness of a colour can depend on type and temperature of light, from which angle the colour is illuminated and, of course, the exposure. When I looked at the colour wheel, I tried to imagine each particular colour in the context of a photograph. I noticed that when I did that the colours were very bright and in order to achieve a reproduction of each colour, I would have to over-expose the image. I found this exercise quite difficult because I prefer images with little colour or none at all, but I have been very interested to learn, not only how to exemplify colour, but also the emotional stimulation a photograph can give you when using certain colours.


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