Understanding Color for Creative Effects

Many photographers make color images without consciously paying attention to the relationship of different hues in their pictures. Understanding the basics of color theory can help you create photographs with more impact. The opposite, or complementary, colors of blue and yellow in the picture below are a large part of its appeal.

Understanding color theory also helps you edit your photos more effectively. Keeping the RGB/CMY color wheel in mind helps you know which color to add to your picture to neutralize an unwanted color cast, for example.

Combining equal amounts of opposite colors creates a neutral color of white, gray or black, depending on the original brightness of the colors. Adding the appropriate amount of magenta to the first photo below removes the green color cast that makes the second photo more appealing.

Color Theory and Photography: A Primer on B&H's Explora web site gives a great introduction to basic color theory along with examples to illustrate the ideas. Well worth the read!