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Color in Photography: What Happened to Oz?

Color in Photography: What Happened to Oz?Lately, I have been filtering my way through many photo sites looking at all the amazing and different work that is out there in the photographic ether. There are so many wonderfully, creative photographers out there that it is a privilege to catch a glimpse of their work and be able to experience the moment they captured as they see it. What a fantastic impact the digital revolution has had on photography and its exposure.

Now, all this perusing through these numerous and vast websites of photographic wonderment always make me evaluate my own work and consider current trends in photography. I highly suggest you get out there and take a peek every once in a while to experience this for yourself, as it is likely to give you some inspiration for pushing the boundaries of your own work. Recently, I found that after this particular exercise, I was left with an interesting question which unfortunately is antithetic to my own personal photographic style. Then I thought this would be an interesting discussion to pose to other photographers, artists and creatives to see what sort of discussion was stimulated.

Color in Photography: What Happened to Oz?What I noticed, was that there seems over recent years to be quite a trend of desaturated, washed out or toned down images in portraits as well as landscapes. Muted skin tones, bleary backgrounds, and moody, melodramatic musings seem to be predominant and I found myself wondering what this exactly means. Especially since my own personal style is to embrace colors and the power and meaning they portray and how they can change the entire feel or emotion of an image.

My first thought was that maybe current worldwide economic complications and overall pessimistic outlooks have caused this overwhelming trend. Then I also considered the possibly that mainstream entertainment trends of zombies, vampires and gothic imagery could also be somewhat responsible. Whatever it is, I found myself concerned that my style is diametrically opposite to this trend. I was the metaphorical Bizarro Superman in Regular Superman’s world. This led me to consider re-evaluating my photography a bit and created a definite schism within the internal workings of my right brain.

First, why would one want to forego the magical nuances and emotive power of colors? Color is everywhere. It is all around us at all times. Color makes a bowl of fresh strawberries look enticing. It makes sunsets and sunrises spectacular and breathtaking. If you were waiting for the Wizard of Oz analogy that was foreshadowed in the title, here it comes, so brace yourself. In Kansas, at least we have the dramatic impact, mood and contrast of black and white imagery. Oz provides spectacular colors and vibrance in an emotive explosion. But what is in between? Are we currently in some sort of photographic purgatory that is lost between Kansas and Oz?

The following is a list of colors and what they can portray in an image:

1) Red – fire, blood, energy, war, strength, power, determination, passion

2) Pink – romance, love, friendship, feminine, passivity

3) Orange – joy, sunshine, enthusiasm, fascination, happiness, warmth, attraction, success

4) Yellow – joy, happiness, intellect, energy, cheerful, warmth

5) Green – nature, growth, harmony, freshness, fertility, safety

6) Blue – depth, stability, serenity, trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth

7) Purple – royalty, power, nobility, luxury, ambition

Color in Photography: What Happened to Oz?

Pretty fascinating to see meaning through color. I would encourage you to try and use color in this manner to give your photos specific visual impact. We all stop at red lights in traffic and go when the light is green. That is an immediate ingrained response to color. How many other colors that we see every day invoke specific emotional responses? The use of color in photography is a worthy area of study for anyone from the weekend amateur to the serious professional. Every photographer should invest some time and thought into this captivating clockwork of colors.

Now, I did not mean to imply that any of the current photographic trends are right, wrong, or somewhere in between. The reality is all imagery has its place and we as photographers need to find the style that suits our photographic philosophy. I love looking at all sorts of photographic styles and find that there is something to be learned from each and every creative mind. Where do you stand on this black and white, muted tones, vibrant color issues? I think it is obvious where I stand, but what is your style and why? Do you feel pressure to stay within the constraints of current photo trends or do you pioneer your own style? Color me crazy, but I think these are important questions to help all of us reflect upon and evaluate our own work.

Color in Photography: What Happened to Oz?

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Alex Smith
Alex Smith

is a photographer and blogger out of Denver, Colorado. He is cofounder of the blog Shutterhogs.com that is dedicated towards making better photography easier for everyone. More of his work can be viewed at alexsmith88.500px.com.

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