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Color is a strong compositional tool that can be used to create contrast or harmony within an image. Colors are said to be complementary when they are directly across from one another on the color wheel (Figure 4.12). For instance, purple and yellow are complementary colors and, when used together in an image, add contrast to the image. To create harmony, use colors that are near one another on the color wheel. Images with adjacent colors that lean toward blues, purples, and greens are said to be cool images. Warm images have more red, orange, and yellow.

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12 Keep the color wheel in mind when using color as a compositional tool.

Sometimes color makes the image! While wandering the streets of Tulum, Mexico, I noticed an apartment building with brightly colored balconies (Figure 4.13). In this case, color added an interesting compositional component to what otherwise would have been a boring image.

Figure 4.13

Figure 4.13 Look for interesting use of color that adds to your composition.

ISO 100 • 1/80 sec. • f/6.3 • 46mm lens

Color Temperature

Color temperature is another important compositional tool for conveying time of day or emotion. As shown in Figure 4.12, an image is said to be “cool” when it has a blue or green tone, and “warm” when it has a yellow or orange tone. While some images inherently have these tones, you can also creatively manipulate an image in post-processing to create a warm or cool feel.

In two photos of an African rhino, I used the same image but used Adobe Lightroom’s temperature slider to change the color temperature. You can see that the cooler image reads with more blues and greens (Figure 4.14), while the warm image has more red and yellow undertones (Figure 4.15).

Figure 4.14

Figure 4.14 This image has more blues and greens, which create a cooler feel.

ISO 640 • 1/200 sec. • f/2.8 • 300mm lens

Figure 4.15

Figure 4.15 This image has more reds and yellows, which create a warmer feel.

ISO 640 • 1/200 sec. • f/2.8 • 300mm lens

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