Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Colour Relationships - Part 1

Exercise - 3 photographs

A complementary colour is one which is directly opposite the other in the RYB colour wheel.

The theory of colour continues with each colour being assigned a value dependant on it's relative brightness. This theory was first suggested by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, a theoretical physicist and writer, in 1810 when he assigned the following values to colours.
  • yellow 9
  • orange 8
  • red 6
  • green 6
  • blue 4
  • violet 3
 In order to combine colour harmoniously within an image the ratio of each colour should adhere to these values.

This exercise is to produce one photograph for each combination of primary and secondary colours as close as possible to the proportions suggested by J.W. Von Goethe. So the 3 images should be:
  • Red/Green 1:1 - red and green have equal values
  • Orange/Blue 1:2 - orange is twice as bright as blue
  • Yellow/Violet 1:3 -  yellow is three times as bright as violet

Field of poppies
The image above demonstrates the use of a red/green colour combination in a balanced ratio. It would be easy for the red to overpower the green in this image as the green has a more subtle, less bright hue. The fact that the red is scattered intermittently throughout the image helps to balance the interaction between the two.


Aperture Priority f/11, 1/4sec at ISO100
 This image has orange and blue in combination and is framed and cropped quite radically to a more abstract image. The lighting has created shadows and areas of increased/decreased saturation. Despite the crop the area of blue is proportionally still too large to meet the correct ratio. I feel this image is more blue with an orange accent.

This image below is more in proportion.

Taken at f/11, 1/250sec, ISO100


This has been the hardest colour combination for me to capture. I can't think of too many everyday areas where I have seen this colour combination except for in flowers, the most obvious being pansies or violas.
I took this image of a violet clematis flower in the garden.

Initially I tried to compose the image in camera to the required ratio by moving in closer or changing focal length etc but was unable to produce an image that met the brief. I then resorted to post processing in Photoshop to crop the image to the suggested proportions.

 This has resulted in quite a severe crop and a more abstract image which, although it applies the "rules" of colour relationships, is not very interesting. My feeling is that if you hadn't seen the original image before it was cropped you might struggle to recognise the subject. 

Whilst I've been working on this exercise I have realised that some colour combinations are much easier to find than others and that I tend to work instinctively when combining colours. The resulting images don't always conform to the rules here. Sometimes they work and make a great picture and sometimes they don't.

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