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How to Use Anchor Colours to Challenge Your Photographic Eye

It is a good thing to break from the norm once in a while, and do something different to challenge your personal photography. Limiting yourself to a few rules could help with this and encourages you to learn something new.

One new thing to try, is to use anchor colours in your photography. An anchor colour could be any colour that does one or more of the following:

  • Dominates the picture
  • Makes the picture interesting
  • Draws the viewer to explore elements in your picture in more depth
  • Emphasizes the subject of your picture

Set yourself a challenge. Perhaps on a family day out, ask your kids to choose a colour each, and get them to point out things with their colour choice for you to take photos of. This gets them involved in the activity, and at the same time challenges you to come up with a creative way to photograph the subject matter.


You can always decide on the colours yourself too, or ask a couple of friends to choose the colour for you, so it becomes more of a challenge, and there is no initial bias on your part. This will stretch your imagination and push you to look out for things you would otherwise not notice immediately.

You can limit yourself to one or two colours, and do a series on each colour, or you can choose many colours. However, make sure each picture you take only has one anchor colour in it.

It is important however, to add some limitations to this challenge, such as time, or location, or both. Take one day, or a few hours, to really focus your mind on anchor colours for this exercise, so there are boundaries and limitations to your options, which will force you to think and see more creatively than usual. The photos on this article were taken on a single day within a three or four hour span.


Fill the frame

It is easy enough to find an object of the colour choice and snap a picture of it. But that doesn’t mean your picture comes out creative, or any better than the average snapshot. To further hone your photographic eye, make it your aim to capture interesting images, and use your anchor colour to enhance your image within this context.

Here are some tips on how to use anchor colour in an interesting way. With your anchor colour firmly in mind.

1 – Symmetry

Use symmetry, or asymmetry, be that with patterns, or arrangement of objects, to draw focus to your subject. Better yet break the rules and fill the frame with the subject matter.


Symmetry in action


Assymmetry in play


Fill the frame

2 Rule of thirds

Use compositional elements like the rule of thirds, centred, and off-centred subjects. Adhering to the rule of thirds often gives a sense of balance to the picture, and is a very widely used composition practice. Centred compositions give an imposing and authoritative feeling to the picture. Sometimes it can take away any mystery from the image. Off-centred composition adds tension and can sometimes make for an unnerving image.



3 – Crop creatively

Cropping creatively is a really fun tool that helps you engage with the viewer, or elicit some kind of a response from them. The main thing to remember when cropping an image of a person, is not to crop at the joints. Other than that use your visual and creative instinct.



4 – Leading lines and perspective

Even when the picture is full of colours, if you compose your picture so that the lines lead to the main colour you want to emphasize, or frame your picture so that the anchor colour is on the converging lines of the rule of thirds, then they will draw the eye and dominate the image.



5 – Framing

Looking through an object so there is a foreground element to your picture – having a foreground frames your subject matter and directs focus to it. The foreground is closer to the camera, and therefore often appears blurry. This also creates a feeling that you are an indirect observer and evokes mystery, like you have just uncovered something new.

Finding a good foreground is as easy as standing behind an object, so that the object stands between you and the subject matter, or hold something up in front of the edges of your lens. I use this technique a lot when shooting portraits. You can use a leaf, a magazine, a piece of fabric – anything that you can hold just ever so slightly within your lens’ view to add a sense of looking through something.


A really good thing to use is a prism or plastic jewel because that reflects light or flare onto the lens so you get a light effect too.

Have you used anchor colours in your images? Share them here in the comments below.

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Lily Sawyer
Lily Sawyer

is a wedding and portrait photographer based in London. Her absolute favourite past time is going on “mummy” dates with her kids and husband. Other than that, as a homebody, she is content curled up on the sofa, hot chocolate in hand, watching films with her family whenever she has a free weekend. Check out her work on www.lilysawyer.com Follow her on her fave social media platform Instagram.

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