Assignment Three – Colour

This assignment is categorised into four parts, each pertaining to a specific kind of colour relationship. We were asked to produce four photographs, for each of the relationships, that demonstrated and portrayed the characteristics of each with variable subject matter; both naturally occurring and prearranged. For this assignment I decided to display a series of images comprised from the most eclectic subject matter that I could, to ensure a peripheral analysis on the objective. To accompany each image, I have added a painted illustration, suggestive of the colour and its movement. The colours may not exactly match those in the photographs.

Part One – Complementary Colours

For this part of the assignment, we were asked to take four photographs illustrating two complementary colours  in each. Complementary colours are colours that oppose each other on the colour wheel; these colours, together, obtain the highest aesthetical value when used in the correct ratios. The ratio of colours in this part of the assignment may not be the same as those scrutinised in the previous exercise ‘Colour relationships’.

Blue and orange

Blue and orange


This is an image of a rusty extraction shoot on the top of a town building, that has been subject to rain, and is displaying large amounts of rust. I particularly like the way in which the image is split into two parts; because of its simple composition, the focus has largely become that of the colour. The two colours are quite uncommon shades of each, and because of this, they balance each other rather well. It is quite abstract in its appearance, with the orange part of the image resembling something of an almost liquid-like state, running into the blue; or a reminiscence of stalactites. Due to the warm appearance of the orange, you almost cannot help but think of fire or lava. Contrasting the orange entirely, both aesthetically and conceptually, is the texture within the cold blue steel, which lends it an icy characteristic.

Orange and blue

Orange and blue


This is a photograph of piles of an orange spice blend on a blue chopping board. I wanted the narrowest depth-of-field I could achieve, to show less detail, rendering the colour to be the main focus of the image. Both colours in this image match each other, not only in shade and intensity, but also in vibrancy, showing harmonious use of colour. The antithesis of the colour is reinforced by the difference of the very structure of the two objects; the orange is ground into a fine powder, where-as, the blue is strong and whole. In contrast, the orange could symbolise the strength and unity of land, where-as, the blue could symbolise the much more ‘free-spirited’ nature of the sea.

Purple and yellow

Purple and yellow


This image is a little more banal than the previous two, not leaving a great deal to the imagination; it is two creatures within their own surroundings, symbolising normality and the comfort that everything is as it should be. The ratio of purple to yellow is considerably high and the image could benefit a more balanced ratio to display true colour harmony.

Red and green

Red and green


This is a photograph of three limes placed equidistantly down one side of the frame on a red chopping board. Interestingly, the balance and harmony that is achieved with using complementary colours is almost counteracted by the unbalanced nature of the compositional elements. I don’t believe that this alters the colour harmony or balance that is achieved when using this kind of colour relationship, but only the image as a whole. For these colours to work harmoniously together, the ratio must be more balanced. Unfortunately, there is a rather unattractive cyanic colour glare illuminating the texture of the board in the centre that is present as a result of mixed light sources.

Part Two – Contrasting Colours

For this part of the assignment, we were asked to capture four images, each illustrating the use of two contrasting colours. Contrasting colours are colours that lie adjacent to neighbouring colours; more precisely, colours that lie a third of the way around the colour wheel from each other. These colours are said to hold a high aesthetic value, but are not usually harmonious like complementary colours.

Orange and green

Orange and green


There are various shades of green and orange in this image, each shade contrasting another somewhere else. Contrary to the name of this particular type of colour relationship, I believe that the two colours in this image are closer to being harmonious than they are contrasting; opposing my expectations of the results. This is rather interesting and has inspired me to find more examples demonstrating similar characteristics.

Purple and green

Purple and greenPaintings-for-assignment-006

The central alignment of the compositional elements in this frame help to suggest the unsupportive nature of using these kinds of colours in unison; that is not to say that these colours, again, appear quite harmonious and complementary. I attempted to merge the different shades of colour by using a shallow depth of field, allowing the colours to appear bolder and more dominant, and softening the detail. The focus is on the green plant as this occupies a smaller portion of the frame, this helps to balance the colours more attractively.

Red and blue

Red and blue


 This is a photograph of the roof of a boat. Its tight frame has allowed the colours to be the focus of the image, which boldly express the contrast between the two colours with their richness and vibrancy, but again, the two colours seem to work rather well together. These colours contrast each other in temperature as well as in the way that is described in this particular kind of relationship; the red is warm, and the blue is cold. There is a good ratio of colour within this frame, it is almost equal.

Red and yellow

Red and yellow


 This photograph is composed of two bushes, splitting the frame into two equal parts; one red and one yellow. Because of its simple composition and its lack of compositional elements, the colour, again, is the dominating feature of the photograph. The branches are almost reminiscent of veins or capillaries and are equally as delicate in appearance. This gives the two colours a similarity or a sense of relation, contradictory to the contrast that we perceive when using these types of colours together.

Part Three – Similar Colours

For this part of the assignment, we were asked to take four photographs, each conveying the characteristics of either cool or warm colours. Similar colours are colours that all sit adjacent on the colour wheel, for example: red, orange and yellow; or, purple, blue and green. These are either cool or warm colours. I have decided to take two photographs illustrating cool colours and two photographs illustrating warm colours.

Cool colours one

Cool coloursPaintings-for-assignment-009

This is the first image of the cool colours set. I have only included two of the three cool colours in this image; blue and green. I believe that purple could act doubly as a warm colour and a cool colour and therefore creates difficulty when trying to convey one or the other. I think that the lighter shade of blue helps to develop a sense of coolness and adds contrast to the image. There is a patch of the reverse side of a piece of carpet that also adds contrast to the image without adding any warmth, due to its neutral colour and characteristic.

Cool colours two

Cool colours_1


I took this photograph of a Mandarin fish in a marine fish tank, as it, and its surroundings display all of the cool colours in the colour wheel in variable shades. The ratio of purple to other colours in this image is quite high and leads to a controversial argument as to whether or not purple should be conceived as a cool colour or a warm colour; I think that it depends on the shade as it is comprised of a warm colour and a cool colour mixed together. Then, so is green. The environment in which this fish lives helps, only to support the coolness in this image as when we think of the sea, we more often than not, think of the cold.

Warm colours one

Warm colours


 There are many different shades and variations of red, orange and yellow in this image of tiles on a rooftop. Illuminated by the warmth of the diffused afternoon sun, this image conveys warmth exceptionally well. The geometric composition adds strength to the image and helps to support the reassurance of familiarity and repetition.

Warm colours two

Warm colours_1


This is a photograph of the lining of a jacket, its silk-like appearance adds luminosity and vibrancy to the colours, helping them to appear warmer. There is a small amount of purple in this image that, in my opinion, does not make any alterations to the overall temperature, supporting my theory that purple could be used in either similar colour relationship.

Part Four – Colour Accents

For the final part of the assignment, we were asked to produce four images that showed accented colour. Colour accent is a relationship or situation when any particular colour appears as a small spot in the image amidst a much larger and abundant amount of colour, usually occupying a large portion of the frame.




For the first image in this part of the assignment, I chose a blue padlock hanging on a shed door. The contrast in vibrancy and temperature of the two colours in this image, help to identify the elemental object and accentuate the blue. All lines show strength in the composition and help lead the eye to the accented colour.




This is a photograph of a green moss growth on the surface of a piece of slate. The composition plays a very important role in making the accented colour the prevailing feature of the image. The lines and cracks in the slate help to lead the viewer into the accented colour in conjunction with the ring that remains from where a plant pot once stood; the moss perfectly positioned on the circumference. The two colours are both cool and follow the basic principles of the similar colour relationship.




The colour accent in this image is accentuated by, not only the difference of colour compared to those found in the rest of the image, but also its luminosity; the bright luminous orange really detaches itself from its surroundings. Carefully positioned in the bottom left third of the frame, it is balanced by the compositional elements in the top right of the frame. The orange colour accent is considerably warmer than most of the colours found in the rest of the image, again detaching itself from its surroundings.




 This stone, found in the wall of some castle ruin, governs this image in two ways; firstly, it is different in colour; and, secondly, it protrudes from the wall much more than the rest of the stone. The repetition of the wall and its stone, help to carry consistency through the frame and gives the larger proportion of the image a certain banality which aids the accented colour in carrying out its duty.


I have learned, in this assignment, that contrasting colours can be just as harmonious as they can be contrasting and that the word ‘contrasting’ may only be used in an ambiguous sense. I have also learned that not all colour relationships strictly conduct the same principles as others, and the portrayal and psychology of colour used can largely be manipulated by the photographer. I have learned that ratios, vibrancy, shade and intensity all need to be equivalent, or closely matched, to achieve a more harmonious balance of colours. I have found this exercise more difficult than first anticipated, largely because of locating these very unique situations, but also because of the ambivalent and subjective nature of colour relationships; scrutiny becomes a series of contradictory questions.

I have never thought about the use of colour this profoundly and will endeavour to use the fundamental principles described in this assignment and its preliminary exercises when working with colour in the future. I have really enjoyed this assignment as I don’t generally shoot a great deal in colour, and I have to say, I understand it more than I did before.

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.

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.

Control the strength of a colour

The objective of this exercise is to demonstrate the impact that exposure has on the intensity of a colour. We were asked to choose one subject with a strong and definite colour, and photograph it five times using the same composition, adjusting the exposure by half a stop each time.

I chose a buoy on the side of the River Trent as my subject and used a tripod to ensure that all of the images were composed exactly the same.

Image 1

I am going to start with image ‘0’ because this is the optimum metered exposure. This image was shot in bright sunlight and has lost a little detail but most of it still remains. The colour in some parts of the image is almost ‘blown-out’, again, losing detail and also richness.

‘+1 stop’ is very over-exposed with a huge amount of detail lost and the colour very faint, compared to the image with optimal exposure. The lighter red parts of the image are ‘blown-out’ and the white has lost virtually all detail, however, the shadows in the image have gained some detail because these parts of the image are probably 1-2 stops darker than the highlights in the optimal image.

‘+1/2 stop’ has less ‘blown-out’ areas but is still over-exposed. The detail in this image is better than that of ‘+1 stop’, but the optimal image still has more.

‘-1/2 stop’ is much richer in colour tones than the previous images, the shadows are darker but still retain some of the detail. A lot of the texture on the surface of the subject is beginning to appear and give the image some texture.

‘-1 stop’ has the most texture and the richest colour tones of all the images. The surface grain has given the image more detail and the shadows have given the image more depth; a much more accurate rendition, with lots of character.


After analysing this set of images, I drew the conclusion that under-exposing an image gives the best colour tones, saturation, texture and detail; especially when shooting in bright light. Although the image is 1 stop under the optimum exposure, the image presents a “truer” white and still holds detail. Ironically, I have found in the past that this can be the case, and as a result I have chosen higher shutter speeds or smaller apertures to ensure a more veracious image.