COLOUR IN PHOTOGRAPHY
As human beings, and more specifically as photographers, our ability to see in colour makes an immense difference to the way we see and interpret a scene. Colour has always been an important ingredient in creating art, but when photography emerged on the scene, it was black and white film that was used to capture a world which we see in colour.
For a long time this created a sizeable challenge to photographers, as they had to create impactful images without the use of colour. Early attempts to introduce colour into images was by hand-colouring black and white prints. Carefully done, this provided attractive results, but was very time consuming.
Colour in a photograph is often the first thing to grab our attention. This can be a valuable aid in creating impactful images. A basic understanding of how colours work together and how they influence each other, as well as their psychological influences, are a key ingredient in colour imaging. The effective use of colour often makes for images that leave a lasting impression.
Basic colour terminology
A quick and easy way to increase your understanding of colour is to deal with some basic terms. The following are common terms used to describe the characteristics of colour with regard to photography:
A colour has three defining characteristics: its hue, value and intensity.
The hue of a colour is determined by the dominant light wavelengths that are reflected or emitted from an object. Our eyes and brains interpret these lightwaves as colour and we call these colours hues. The word hue is generally used interchangeably with “colour”.
The value of a colour is measured by its lightness or darkness. To understand this, imagine a scale which is graduated from black at the bottom to white at the top. The colour yellow for example would be high on this scale because yellow is a fairly light colour. Deep indigo blue would be very low on the scale because it is so dark.
The purity or strength of a colour is referred to as its intensity and is often used interchangeably with the term saturation. Colour saturation can be enhanced in a number of ways. Deliberate under or over exposure in the photograph is one way. Colour saturation can also be set to be more or less saturated in the camera’s set-up menu, or adjusted in post-production using image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop®.