How To Create Amazing Compositions Simply By Using Color

Using color can be amazingly creative. Memorable photographs are all about contrast, and even though we might immediately think of black and white when we hear the word “contrast”, it can perfectly be achieved by using color as well.

Today we'll give you some short examples of how to achieve amazing compositions by contrasting color. The purpose of this is so you can understand color contrast in a better way, but the challenge is on you.

You need to start seeing color differently from today.

Photo by Ablimit Ablet on Unsplash

Using Color Effectively Relies On Understanding The Color Wheel

First and foremost, you should learn about the Color Wheel if you want to understand how colors relate with each other.

The color wheel starts out with the prime colors. There are several color wheels out there, but since we are working with screens (on computers and cameras) you should keep things simple and just go for the RGB (red, green, blue) wheel.

When opposing colors meet in a single composition, contrast is achieved in the most magnificent ways. When adjacent colors – like an array of warm or cold tones are together without an opposing hue – low levels of contrast are achieved.

High Contrasting Colors Can Add Drama To Your Photo

There is no right or wrong, just what is your intention and what is not. If you want high contrast photographs, try out doing some of these combinations:

  • Red and Green
  • Blue and Yellow
  • Orange and Purple

Using Color Combinations That Are Low Contrast Will Change The Mood

Not all images need to have high contrast, it will always depend on the mood that you are trying to convey. If you want something more subtle and delicate, low contrast is the way to go:

  • Red, Orange, and Yellow
  • Green and Yellow
  • Blue, Purple, and Green

Here Are Some Projects That You Might Like To Do!

Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans on Unsplash

These are just short examples, but you can develop a great style by challenging yourselves like this:

  1. Try to find some natural contrasts in your own backyard or a close park. Use the RGB wheel to compose with high contrast compositions in mind.
  2. Create a still life image where you achieve high contrast and low contrast with the same subject and just playing with available elements or compositions.
  3. Try to make a photo shoot with a model (or a friend helping you as your model) and use colored props to achieve high and low contrast.

Thanks to color relations and clashes, you can develop some pretty advanced composition skills.

Note: Remember using color to create contrast isn't the same as using light or dark – highlights or shadows, which is tonality!

If you'd like feedback on your color contrast images then don't forget to share them with us in our friendly forum or in the shark tank 

PS: If you are deeply in love with color photography, you should definitely check out these photographers:


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About the author

Federico Alegria

Federico is a documentary photographer and photography educator based in El Salvador. This year his work was featured in Black & White Magazine Issue #125. Check out his photography portfolio.


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