Why The Color RED Made Me a Better Photographer | Light Stalking

Why The Color RED Made Me a Better Photographer

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I want some attention!

I want people to notice my photography.

I want my skills to be recognized.

It’s true isn’t it? We all crave attention.

You want your photographs to get noticed. I get it. So do I.

Photography is a challenging medium. No one will ever really master it completely. Like all art; it is constantly evolving.

When you think about “famous” photographers- for example: Avedon, Muench, Wolfe, Leibovitz, McCurry, Penn, Newton, Benson, Warhol, Newman, Bailey, Adams, Winogrand, and countless others… Had they completely mastered the medium? Or, did they simply get noticed?

Many world-renowned photographers will often say the medium cannot be mastered.

Is it conceivable that while Arnold Newman was shooting his world-famous portrait of Igor Stravinsky sitting at a piano- that perhaps Joe Middleclass conceived that same photograph, at the same time, in some un-exotic location?

Sure it’s possible. Getting noticed is where it’s at, especially in today’s online world. Getting noticed is what will elevate you, as a photographer, among your peers.

That brings me to a story that I really wanted to share with you, and that story initiated the thought behind this post.

For the last eight months, I have been very active on a photography “contest” website. They have ongoing contests, and you can enter as many as you want. As you attain a certain number of votes in a contest- you can earn an achievement, which adds up to your “rank” within the community.

I started doing this for fun, but it quickly turned into an obsession.

(That’s what my wife calls it.) It became my personal goal to earn the highest rank possible. Yes, I wanted my photographs to be noticed.

Many of you, that are active on the forums here on Lightstalking.com, probably are at least familiar with my name. For those that aren’t- I take my photography very seriously. I’ve been doing it a long time. I worked as a professional photographer for a number of years.

One of my favorite aspects of the photographic medium is composition.

Oh man… I can rattle on about composition at length.

But, I digress.

You want to know why the color RED made me a better photographer

Take a good look at this-

you can check out those books here.)

You would think- that I would have easily known what I’m about to reveal to you. But, I didn’t. It didn’t click…

I cannot take complete credit for the ‘realization’ that occurred as a result of my studying these contests.

I have to give partial credit to my wife- who also happens to be a graphic designer.

Here is what I noticed about the leader boards on these photo contests.

I said this to my wife over dinner one night:

“I’ve been studying the leaders on those photo contests, and I noticed something strange. Any image that has the color RED in it garners way more votes. It doesn’t even seem to matter whether the image is that good or not, or what the subject matter is!”

A few days after saying this to her, she wrote me an email. She had been doing some studying of her own about graphic design, and she came across an article about composition in graphic design.

Here is what she sent to me-

  • Color
    Warm colors advance into the foreground and tend to weigh more than cool colors, which recede into the background. Red is considered the heaviest color.

Red is Considered the Heaviest Color

While composition is nothing more than working with the psychology of the mind, the elements of a composition are similar to a road map or a puzzle- and each element has visual weight.

The more ‘weight’ an element of a composition has- the more likely a viewer will be drawn to it, linger on it, remember it, and react to it. (And I guess vote for it!)

Knowing that fact- and knowing that the color RED is the heaviest color- gives us a lot of visual clout. Wouldn’t you say?

Photo by Kent DuFault
Photo by Kent DuFault

The top photograph, with the red coat, has received a 52% vote ratio on the contest website. In other words, 52% of the people who looked at this photograph- voted for it. In the bottom photograph, I changed the color of the coat to a vibrant green. It’s your call. Do you think it would have acquired the same percentage of votes? I don’t!

Stands to reason, if you want to become a better photographer? If, you want to become noticed, plan on putting the color RED into an image whenever you can!

Let me share with you some recent contests results after my revelation about the color RED- (as well as some other issues with composition that I began to implement into my submissions…)

Kent DuFault

This photograph has received a “Yes” vote ratio of 64%. 64 out of 100 people that viewed it- voted for it! Did you happen to notice that two major brands are making use of the color RED?

Yeah! Now we’re talking.

The Color RED is a really powerful weapon in your photographic arsenal.

However- remember- that alone may not be enough.

There are many photographs that I see around the Internet, (or even over in the Lightstalking.com Shark Tank), where the photographer utilized only one aspect of composition. That rarely works. Sometime it works- but rarely- it usually takes at least three elements of composition to create a solid map for the viewer. And the visual weight of each element must be carefully considered.

There is obviously way too much information on this subject to be written here in this blog post.

But just to give it some perspective- here are some other considerations to visual weight…

  • The size of an element in comparison to other elements within the photograph
  • Contrast– light tends to attract more than dark… however dark can be heavier dependent on the balance of the image
  • Position – an element positioned higher in a composition tends to carry more weight than one positioned lower. Also, a center-positioned element can be extremely dominate depending on the balance
  • Texture – a textured element tends to carry more weight than a smooth element
  • Shape – an irregular shape is generally heavier than a regular shape
  • Focus – an element that is in-focus carries more weight than an element that is out-of-focus
  • Direction – an element that depicts movement will often create flow through an image- thus carrying strong visual weight

These are just a few of the many considerations for composition. And, as I said earlier, every photograph is an individual entity. What works for one, may not work for another. Where one image may only need one, or two, elements of composition- another might need ten to be successful.

Photo by Kent DuFault
Photo by Kent DuFault

The photograph above has reached ‘All Star” status three times, and ‘Elite” status twice. And guess what? It has the color RED! It also has FIVE other elements of composition- all working together.

The good news is- you get to have fun learning about composition.

It’s awesome knowing how to put the puzzle together for the best dramatic effect. As your knowledge grows- so will your stature within the photographic community.

You will become the one getting noticed!

If you’re interested in learning more about using composition techniques to improve your photography. Go here to check out my eBook “Understanding Composition” over at Photzy.com

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for that color RED!

About the author

    Kent DuFault

    Kent is an occasional writer at our place, and also handles the weekly “Picture of the Week” contest. He has been involved with photography since 1974 and you can get to know him better here


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