In this article I would like to show how colors can be used to intensify a subject and/or create that certain 'oomph' people long for when creating art.
It is important to understand that each color may connote a certain emotion. That, of course, depends on culture as well as people's own experiences.
In Western culture, white suggest weddings and purity, while in China it is the color of mourning. In the West, green is a symbol of fertility and sexuality, while for Muslims it is sacred. In Japan, green is the symbol of the emperor.
In most cultures, red is a symbol of danger, because it represents fire or potentially poisonous food. However, in China, red is also a sign of good luck. And we all know that it also represents love and lust.
Different combinations of colors can have a psychological effect on people. Some color schemes seem harmonious, while others do not go together at all and can cause a jarring, unappealing or even shocking effect.
Some of our reactions to colors are learned behaviours and others are psychological responses.
Red is the color of fire and blood, it is therefore associated with danger, war, power, but also with love, desire and passion.
Orange is usually associated with happiness, as it reminds people of sunshine, joy and energy. It also reminds people of the tropics and citrus fruits, which are associated with healthy food and vitamins. Dark orange can, like red, connote feelings of passion and desire, but also aggression and anger.
Yellow is the ultimate color of sunshine and joy, it has a warming effect. The combination of black and yellow is easy for the eyes to see and the human brain would react to it faster than to any other combination (e.g. black and green).
Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes harmony, freshness, fertility and growth and appears to be the most calming color of all. Green also connotes hope and good luck.
Blue is the color of the water and the sky. It has a calming effect on people and symbolizes stability, wisdom, confidence, truth and heaven. Blue is usually thought to be a masculine color.
White generally has positive connotations. It is associated with purity, cleanliness, goodness, innocence, safety and virginity. White is associated with hospitals, doctors and sterility, and is used to suggest safety.
Black on the other hand has a rather negative connotation. It is associated with death, evil, fear and mystery. It is the symbol of grief.
Depending on the subject you want to photograph and the idea you have in mind, you can treat color as a variable subject to your imagination.
You may choose to let your subject blend in with its surroundings, you may want it to stand out. Maybe you want to create a certain mood in your picture.
Let's see what basic options we have.
"Complementary colors are pairs of colors that are of opposite hue in some color model.(...)
Because of the limited range of colors that was available throughout most of the history of art, many artists still use a traditional set of complementary pairs, including:
white and black
red and green
blue and orange
yellow and violet" (Taken from: [link])
Focus on one color / monochrome pictures
"Monochrome is a term generally used to describe painting, drawing, design, or photograph in one color or shades of one color." (Taken from: [link])
Black or white as backgrounds
Black and white as backgrounds can be used to really make your subject stand out. This is especially helpful in still life or conceptual photographs.
I have intentionally left out pastels as well as sepia and black&white. The latter two can only be achieved in camera or via post-processing, while in this article I wanted to focus on what you can influence BEFORE taking a picture.