Fundamentals of photo composition – working with contrasts 2 – colo(u)rs

Working with contrasts is one kind of creating a photo composition.

There are many different contrasts that can be worked with.

Over here I’d like to give you a small glimpse at one of the many colo(u)r contrasts…

… the contrast of cold and warm colo(u)rs.

What are cold and what are warm colo(u)rs ?

First of all it has to be said that this can be really different and relative, because it has to do quite a lot with how one feels a colo(u)r, looking at it, of how one reacts on it (color perception), as well as it has to do with what and how many colo(u)rs can be seen together e.g. in a photo and suchlike.

But there is a least a general/basic classification of colo(u)rs in cold ones and warm ones.

Regarding the harmonic colo(u)r circle from Johannes Itten, which consists of 12 colo(u)rs, there are the colo(u)rs yellow on top and violet at the bottom. All colo(u)rs ranging from (blue) violet till yellow-green belong to the cold colo(u)rs. Blue- green in the middle of them is the pole of the cold colo(u)rs.

All colo(u)rs ranging from yellow orange till (purple/red) violet belong to the warm colo(u)rs. Red orange in the middle of them is the pole of the warm colo(u)rs.

The so called pole colo(u)rs, blue green and red orange, are always felt as a clear contrast between cold and warm.

All the other ones around them are relatively cold or warm, depending on the situation and the colo(u)r perception.

To say it easier and more simple for a first start with this colo(u)r contrast:

Yellow as a yellow orange, orange and red and all color shades of them are usually felt as warm colo(u)rs, meanwhile at least blue and all color shades of it are usually felt as cold colo(u)rs.

To understand the reactions on colo(u)rs/the feeling of them/the color perception just ask yourself e.g.:

How do you react on a green colo(u)r ? Is it a warm or a cold colo(u)r for you ? Is there a difference when you see green surrounded by e.g. blue colo(u)rs and green surrounded by e.g. yellow, orange or red colo(u)rs ?


How do you react on a violet colo(u)r ? Is it a warm or a cold colo(u)r for you ? On what does your reaction depend ?

Let’s look at one example of working with the colo(u)r contrast with warm and cold colo(u)rs over here:


Now here is a clear contrast between a warm colo(u)r (the deep red leaves of the tree) and a cold colo(u)r (the blue sky).

And by minimizing the amount of colo(u)rs to be seen, this contrast is deeper/greater.

It would have been even deeper, if there hadn’t been the white clouds around, but they didn’t want to disappear.

The contrast of cold and warm colo(u)rs has got quite a lot of effects and is worked with in different professions like e.g. interior design or advertising.

In landscape photography it gives an impression of space and distances, because colo(u)rs in a distance turn into blue or bluish colo(u)r shades,  as can be seen in photos of mountain landscapes e.g. quite clearly.

Now have a lot of fun in trying to work on this contrast as well.

As always feedback and questions are welcome by heart.

Just click at the comment function below this article and go ahead.

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