How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

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A great way to make your photograph look attractive is to make it pop! One of the best ways of making your photo pop is to use eye catching colors your image. Those colors will have even more impact when paired with a contrasting color, so in this article, we’ll look at how you can apply this idea. There is a simplicity to these kind of photos, and learning which colors pair well together will help a lot. Let’s take a look at contrast, and color contrast photography to see why this works.

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

Red and blue, one of the strongest color contrasts, was used in this still life.

Why does contrast work in photography?

Opposites work well together in an artistic sense, concepts like old versus new are good photographic subject matter. One of the simplest forms of contrast is black and white, which is why photographs that were taken in this style look so effective. The best black and white photos often have strong contrast which makes them stand out.

The aim of many photos is to isolate your subject, and by doing so, tell a story. The use of contrast is one way you can isolate a subject from the background, or bring out a strong repeating pattern in a texture photo. It’s also possible to have color contrast as well, but only certain color combinations work well together.

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

The warm glow of street lights against the blue hour sky is a color contrast.

What is color contrast photography?

Getting color contrast is a bit more complex than it is with black and white photography. Color can be broadly split into two groups, cold colors, and warm colors. Color contrast happens when a cold color is paired with a warm color. You can also use complementary colors – that is when warm colors and cold colors (opposite on the color wheel) are in the same photo.

An easy way to visualize this is by looking at a color wheel, which shows colors that are opposite each other. It’s not uncommon to see color contrast occurring naturally in nature with things like fruits and flowers often displaying this concept. The classic color contrasts are yellow/purple, red/green and orange/blue. Using the color wheel can you come up with some yourself and apply them to your images?

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

Using this wheel you can see which colors are opposite each other. Image credit Todd Weed. Creative commons.

How to take photos that have color contrast

The world is full of color, but it’s often a mess of many different colors. So how do you go about taking photos that have color contrast, if there are so many other colors in the frame? The following are ideas you can use to do color contrast photography.

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

Finding a good location

Look for places with a solid color, walls often provide this. A red brick wall can contrast against green or blue colors. In some neighborhoods you might find a wall that has been painted blue or wood paneling that is a particular color. Artistic areas of town are often good hunting grounds. Once you have a strong color background you will need to find something or someone that has the contrasting color.

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

The vendor knew to lay out their wares using color contrast to attract more customers.

Create your own color contrast

Color contrast photography is creative, so how about creating your own contrasts? This could mean asking a model to wear a particular color of clothes, or you can create still life photos that display color contrast. A quick trip to a local crafts store to buy colored paper will allow you to play with contrast.

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

In this photo, the opposing colors of purple and green have been used.

Finding color contrast in nature

Flowers, especially orchids, have natural color contrast, meaning you don’t need to create it yourself! Another subject with strong colors are fruits, so head to the market and see if you can find contrasting colors with the food on display!

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

The strong color contrast of red and blue gives this street scene more impact. Even the stalls are red and blue.

Let’s see your examples of color contrast photography

The world is much better in color, so let’s see examples of your photos! The chances are you already have some photos of this type in your archive. So which color combinations worked best for you? When you next challenge yourself to try something new with your photography how about using color contrast as a central theme? Go out and get some new photos, post them here, and share your experiences! This is a fun form of photography that anyone can try no matter what camera you’re using, so let’s see some color contrast photography!

When you next challenge yourself to try something new with your photography how about using color contrast as a central theme? Go out and get some new photos, post them here, and share your experience in the comments section. This is a fun form of photography that anyone can try no matter what camera you’re using, so let’s see some color contrast photography!

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

The yellow wall makes the women who are wearing blue stand out more.

How to Make Your Photos Stand Out Using Color Contrast

In this photo, the color contrast was created. I used a pixelstick to paint first in red, then in blue.

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Simon Bond is a National Geographic featured photographer from the UK. He’s an educator who shares his creative style of photos. Want to learn more about refraction? Do just that by getting Simon's refraction photography course.

  • HDFC Prudence Fund

    great tips.. btw nice capture..
    keep it up.. n thanks for sharing dear.. πŸ™‚

  • nice images. thanks for sharing dear. πŸ™‚

  • Wayne Gifford
  • pawell

    Great post, thank you!

  • Great article.
    All the images is beautiful. Read some new information and I will try these.

  • Nizmo

    Misleading article. Complementary colors are red and green, orange and blue, and purple and yellow. Even a “color wheel” here is wrong.

  • Richard Brunet

    The primary colours of light at RGB – red, green and blue. The colour wheel shows the complimentary colours across from the primary ones – CMY – cyan, red and blue. All other colours are combinations.

  • Nizmo

    RGB for monitor, CMYK for printers and complimentary colors are for human eye. First time I see red and blue are complimentary.

  • Peter

    I thought the article was about contrast. In addition Simon was expressing that using opposite colors to emphasize this can make your subject stand out, make your pictures pop.
    Nice little article Simon

  • Richard Brunet

    I meant cyan magenta and yellow.

  • Constantin Simion

    Weed’s wheel is wrong. Check the Newton’s wheel or Itten’s wheel.

  • Neoh Soon Hueng

    Are you based in Penang? Some of these photos look very familiar.

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