Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color GREEN and its use in Photography

The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color GREEN and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Spanish dramatist, poet and writer Pedro Calderón de la Barca once said “green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises”. From the perspective of a well-loved frog however, it’s not so easy being green. On the visible spectrum, green occupies the space between blue and yellow. In color theory, it is a secondary color, made by mixing blue and yellow together. Here, we’ll have a look at the evolution of green and its impact in art from antiquity to the present day.

The psychology of green

Green’s strongest psychological associations lie with the natural environment. The word green originates from the Middle English and Old English word grene, which has the same root as the words grass and grow. Many humans respond to nature, and thereby green itself, with a sense of calm and renewal. According to a recent study, exposure to green spaces in childhood can provide significant mental health benefits into adolescence and adulthood. Another study suggests that the “availability and quality of neighborhood green spaces are associated with greater well-being”.

Green’s association with nature has led to the adoption of green as an emblem for environmental movements. Fresh greenery in spring and the steady growth of plant-life has fostered associations with green and rebirth and determination. In contrast, the green text on early computer systems have cultivated associations between green, modernity and the digital landscape. The movie The Matrix has furthered this association.

When the United States government began issuing cash in 1861, bills were printed with a green-black ink. This has fostered associations between green and money. Due to it’s reflective nature, neon green is often used for safety equipment, clothing and signage. Because of it’s vibrational quality, neon green also features heavily in psychedelic art.

A belief held by the ancient Greeks that the overproduction of bile (which is typically a dark green to yellowish brown fluid) was a symptom of jealousy has drawn associations between green, envy and illness. Poeticized by William Drennan as the “Emerald Isle,” Ireland is associated with the color green because of it’s lush green landscapes. In China, green is associated with the east, spring and generative energy. For many Native American peoples, green symbolizes endurance. Green is the sacred color of Islam, representing Muhammad. However, in South America, green can be a symbol of death.

The evolution of the color green

Malachite, green earth and verdigris

While prehistoric artists used a pallet made up of reds, yellows, blacks, browns and whites, greens and blues were noticeably absent from early art. Decorative ceramics made by ancient Mesopotamians depict some of the earliest examples of green in visual arts. However, the method used to produce these greens is unknown.

Mined in the west Sinai and eastern desert, ancient Egyptians adorned tombs and papyrus with finely ground blue-green malachite pigment. Referring to the afterlife as the Field of Malachite, the ancient Egyptians wore the crushed mineral around the eyes to ward away evil. Moderately lightfast but very sensitive to acids, and varying in tonal consistency, malachite’s use in art continued up until the 1800’s. The Egyptians also used green earth pigments or mixed yellow ochre with blue azurite to form green hues.

Sourced near Verona in Italy and on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, the Romans used green earth extensively in decoration. According to the blog Eclectic Light Company, green earth pigments have also been found in paintings from North America and the Indian subcontinent. Although lacking in intensity, green earth has seen use right up to the present day. Perhaps its best known usage however, is in the under-painting of flesh tones during the middle ages.

The Romans also used verdigris as a source of green pigment. Verdigris occurs naturally when copper, brass or bronze is exposed to air or seawater over time. Deliberately cultivated by soaking copper plates in fermenting wine and collecting the resulting residue, verdigris was the most vibrant green available until the 19th century.

Scheele’s green

Invented in 1775 by chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Scheele’s green was the first to contain arsenic in its composition. Although it faded rapidly, Scheele’s green was considered superior to previous paints due to its vibrancy. It was used in a range of applications from food dye to artist’s paints. Needless to say, Scheele’s green was highly toxic and carcinogenic. Both manufactures and consumers became ill or died from exposure to the deadly pigment.

Cobalt green

In 1780 Swedish chemist Sven Rinman, developed a process that resulted in a cobalt-green compound of cobalt and zinc. Arthur Herbert Church, a British chemist, published Rinmann’s process in his book, the Chemistry of Paints and Painting where he stated that cobalt green was created by “precipitating with an alkaline carbonate a mixture of the nitrates of cobalt and of zinc, and then strongly heating (after washing) the precipitate formed”.

“When prepared properly,” Church continued, “cobalt green is a pigment of great beauty and power.” However, despite the opportunity to vary the ratio of zinc to cobalt oxides in production, the pigment was never a pure green, taking on a blueish hue instead. In addition, the high cost and poor tinting strength of cobalt green meant it saw limited use by artists.

Paris green

Paris green is also known as emerald green. Becoming commercially available in 1814, Paris green was used as a pigment as well as a rodenticide and insecticide. Offering greater permanence and saturation over Scheele’s green, Paris green proved popular with artists such as Monet, and Van Gogh. Ranging from a pale blue-green to a deep green, Paris green was relativity cheap to manufacture. It was also used as a household paint and in decorative wallpaper. Highly toxic, it was discontinued over the second half of the twentieth century.


Electing to keep their methodology a secret, Viridian was first produced by chemists Pannetier and Binet in Paris around 1838. It took another 20 years before chemist Guignet patented a process to manufacture Viridian, making the pigment available to artists.

Viridian takes its name from the Latin word viridis, meaning green. A dark shade of spring green, Viridian sits between green and teal on the color wheel. Viridian’s brilliance, excellent permanence and lack of toxicity meant that it soon eclipsed all other green pigments. Readily adopted by Edvard Munch, Monet and Van Gogh, the rich blue-green hues of viridian remain in use today.

Green in visual arts

Green’s presence in art history is a testament to its evocative associations with nature and life. Cultivated by the flooding of the River Nile, ancient Egyptians recognized the greenery of flourishing crops as a symbol of rebirth. Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the underworld and rebirth was depicted with a green complexion and the hieroglyph for the color green was represented by the stalk of the papyrus.

During the middle ages and renaissance, clothing color signaled social rank and occupation. Green was worn by merchants, bankers and gentry. Both the Mona Lisa and the bride in the Arnolfini portrait by Jan van Eyck are depicted in green, an indication of their status.

Taking advantage of greens refined over the renaissance period, Baroque artists conveyed moments of movement and drama with rich green hues. Dreamy green landscapes populated by the well-to-do defined the rococo art movement, while the green hues in 19th century realism mirrored the bleak reality of middle and lower class society. In contrast, pre-raphaelite artists used green to depict resplendent clothing and foliage.

Capturing the interplay between light and movement, green took on a new life under the strokes of the impressionist’s brush. Expressionist artists, in their distortions and exaggerations, valued emotion over reality, using green to convey new artistic possibilities. Cubists used green as a tool to alleviate some of the heaviness of their compositions and later, abstract artists like Mark Rothko and Helen Frankenthaler expressed the immersive nature of green through verdant tones on active canvasses.

Green in contemporary art

Contemporary examples of green used in art are as varied and unique as green itself.  In 1970 Bruce Nauman erected two walls, placed them 12 inches apart and suspended green lights above the gap. Encouraged to walk through the claustrophobic space, members of the public were bathed in green fluorescence as they shuffled along.

In 1998 Olafur Eliasson used a sodium salt variation of fluorescein called uranine to color waterways in Germany, Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Japan and the USA a vibrant green. He called his endeavors the Green River Project.

In 2016 Norwegian artist Per Kristian Nygard transformed an Oslo gallery into an organic work of art. Distributing soil and grass seed over a wooden framework covered with plastic sheets, Per Kristian Nygard cultivated Not Red But Green, a contemplative piece investigating the exchange between architecture and nature.

Green in photography

Green’s associations continue to be depicted in both film and digital photographic formats. Australian duo Prue Stent and Honey Long combine photography with performance, installation and sculpture, investigating the relationship between the human body and nature. Stent and Long’s series Bush Babies melds the green of the natural environment with the nakedness of the human body.

An overreaching theme in Narelle Autio’s photography is the study of human interaction within green spaces. Namia Green’s portraits of black and brown subjects against lush greenery reflects the photographer’s rejection of the narrow representation of black peoples in art. Photographed by Steve McCurry, the famously green eyes of the Afghan Girl (Sharbat Gula) are both haunting and haunted, piercing a viewer’s gaze. Ren Hang (link NSFW), known for his sexually expressive imagery, often relied on green for contrast, context and life.

Landscape and architectural photographer Andreas Gursky often applies green as a visual pause within his work. Fashion photographer Miles Aldridge uses green as a surreal brush with the surreal. Signalling time, place and atmosphere, macro photographers like Tomas Shahan feature green as an inevitable backdrop for their minuscule natural subjects. And Pep Ventosa’s dynamic works see green as a prevailing presence in her series In the Round, Trees.

Green has applications on-camera too. In black and white photography, green filters are mainly used for photographing plants, separating green foliage from brightly colored flowers. In landscape photography, green filters lighten organic greens, giving an image a more natural appearance.


Despite its late arrival to the artist’s pallet, green’s versatility is reflected in its many connotations. Associated with renewal and rebirth, green has also been linked with the digital landscape, money, jealousy and sickness. From ancient art to contemporary visual culture, green has shaped our comprehension of the environment around us. Portraying immeasurable depth and abundance, green is the color of nature and life.

Share with us your photos that use green in the comments below.


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The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color GREEN and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color BLUE and its use in Photography

The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color BLUE and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

As one of the three primary colors in traditional colour theory and the RGB colour model, blue’s greatest impact is in its capacity to convey strong emotion. Painter Vincent van Gogh once said “I never get tired of the blue sky”, his fascination proving integral to many of his most famous paintings. In this article, we’ll have a detailed look at the history of blue in visual arts and what it means for your photography.

The psychology of blue

Color has a profound effect on our psychology. Rayleigh scattering, an optical phenomenon that causes the sea and sky to appear blue, forges a psychological association between the color blue and the perceived qualities of blue in nature. For example, the ancient duality of the sea and the sky generates a visual relationship between blue and impressions of consistency and trust. Blue’s associations with water tie it to cleanliness and refreshment but also tears. Consequently, a person experiencing sadness is said to be feeling blue.

The cool light of winter and the blue tint of ice draws connections between blue and the cold. Clear blue skies have become synonymous with happiness, relaxation and tranquility. The blue tint of daylight helps regulate our circadian rhythms. Blue also lowers stress levels, stimulating calm. This has practical applications; hospitals are often painted in shades of blue to help ease patient anxiety. Additionally, many medications are dispensed in blue pill form.

Blue is believed to symbolize the male gender in the Western cultures – though this hasn’t always been the case. In China, blue manifests itself as a color of healing, relaxation and immortality. In countries like Turkey, Greece and Albania, blue is said to repel evil. Hindu tradition associates blue with Krishna, a deity that embodies love, virtue and divinity. Furthermore, in German, Swedish and Norwegian languages, a naive person is said to look upon the world with a blue eye.

Jodhpur – the blue city of India.

The evolution of the color blue

Egyptian blue

Egyptian blue is considered to be the first synthetic pigment. Produced by the ancient Egyptians from around 2,200 BC, Egyptian blue was made from a mixture of ground limestone, sand and a copper-containing mineral (like azurite or malachite). The mixture was heated up to 1650°F, producing an opaque blue glass. The glass was then crushed and combined with thickening agents for application.

Associated with the River Nile and the sky, ancient Egyptians used Egyptian blue to paint murals, statues and ceramics. Eventually, Egyptian blue spread to the Near East, the Eastern Mediterranean and the Roman Empire. Egyptian blue’s usage continued throughout the Late and Greco-Roman periods. However, the pigment died out in the 4th century AD, when the recipe for its manufacture was lost.


Lapis lazuli first appeared as a pigment in 6th to 7th century AD paintings in Afghanistani Zoroastrian and Buddhist temples. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Italian traders shipped the pigment to Europe. There, it was called ultramarine or ultramarinus (meaning beyond the sea in Latin).

For centuries, the cost of ultramarine pigment rivaled the price of gold. Subsequently, artists used ultramarine in only the most imperative aspects of a painting. This judicious application culminated in associations between the color blue and status.

Ultramarine remained almost prohibitively expensive until an artificial process was discovered in 1828 by Jean Baptiste Guimet. Commercial production of the synthetic ultramarine had commenced by 1830, and became known as French ultramarine.

Cobalt blue

In the 8th and 9th centuries, cobalt blue was used to color porcelain and jewelry in China. An alumina-based version of cobalt blue was later discovered by the French chemist, Louis Jacques Thénard in 1802. Commercial production of the pigment began in France in 1807.

Lightfast, stable and compatible with other pigments, Impressionists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet readily adopted cobalt blue as an alternative to pricey ultramarine. Post-Impressionists such as Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cezanne also made use of cobalt blue. According to the Musee d’Orsay, van Gogh used a combination of Prussian blue, cobalt and ultramarine to create the nighttime hues of Starry Night Over the Rhone. Van Gogh himself stated that “cobalt is a divine color and there is nothing so beautiful for creating atmosphere…”


Cerulean is a Latin word which translates as sky blue. Originally composed of cobalt magnesium stannate, cerulean was refined by a process developed in 1805 by Andreas Höpfner in Germany. Cerulean wasn’t sold as an artist’s pigment until 1860 by Rowney and Company. When it did become available, however, the color, ranging between azure and dark sky blue, proved popular among artists.

In 1999, Pantone released a statement declaring Cerulean Blue as the color for the millennium. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, stated that “…cerulean blue could bring on a certain peace because it reminds you of time spent outdoors, on a beach, near the water…in addition, it makes the unknown a little less frightening because the sky…is a constant…that’s the dependability factor of blue.”

Lisa Herbert, vice president, corporate communications worldwide, Pantone Inc., went on to say “our studies show that blue is the leading favorite color…regardless of culture, gender or geographic origin….[in the] U.S. [and] Europe and Asia as well. We’ve chosen cerulean blue as the official color for the millennium because of its mass appeal.”

Cerulean is the Latin word for sky blue

Prussian blue

Prussian blue was apparently discovered by accident. Around 1706, pigment and dye producer Johann Jacob Diesbach was mixing crushed cochineal insects, iron sulfate and potash to create cochineal red lake. Unbeknownst to him, the potash he used was contaminated with animal blood. The resulting concoction turned out to be the first modern synthetic pigment, a rich, dark blue that was quickly recognized for its artistic applications.

Inexpensive, easily produced, non-toxic, and intensely colored, Prussian blue spread throughout the art world. Pieter van der Werff’s The Entombment of Christ is the oldest known example of Prussian blue in an artwork. Other early examples include Antoine Watteau’s Pilgrimage to Cythera and paintings produced in Berlin in 1710 by Antoine Pesne.

Japanese woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai used Prussian blue (as well as indigo dye) to create the Great Wave off Kanagawa. In 1842, English scientist and astronomer Sir John Herschel’s experimentations with Prussian blue led to the invention of the cyanotype.

International Klein blue

International Klein Blue (IKB) is a deep blue hue developed by French artist Yves Klein and Edouard Adam, a Parisian art paint supplier. Klein suspended his favorite ultramarine pigment in a matte, synthetic resin binder made of petroleum extracts. This allowed the rich blue hue to be applied without the loss of vibrancy. Single-colored canvases as well as elaborate performative undertakings were underpinned by Klein’s extensive use of the brilliant IKB.

YInMn blue

Much like Prussian blue, YlnMn (pronounced Yin Min) blue was discovered by accident. In 2009 at Oregon State University, Professor Mas Subramanian and his then-graduate student Andrew E. Smith were investigating new materials for making electronics. The pair were experimenting with the properties of manganese oxide by heating it to approximately 2000 °F. What emerged from the furnace however, was a striking blue compound.  Named after its chemical makeup of yttrium, indium, and manganese, YlnMn blue pigment was released for commercial use in June 2016. According to paint company Derivan YlnMn blue is “non-toxic with excellent archival attributes”.

Blue in visual arts

Ancient art to the Renaissance

Blue is an enduring presence throughout art history. Ancient Egyptians decorated murals and tombs with shades of blue. The walls of Roman villas in Pompeii had frescoes of blue skies. Greek artists used blue as a background colour behind the friezes on Greek temples and to colour the beards of statues.

Dark blue was widely used in the decoration of churches in the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine art depicted Christ and the Virgin Mary dressed in dark blue or purple. Elaborate dark blue and turquoise tiles were used to decorate mosques and palaces from Spain to Central Asia.

At the beginning of the Middle Ages in Europe, blue played a less significant role to that of other colors. However, in the 12th century, painters in Italy and greater Europe were instructed by the Roman Catholic Church to paint the robes of the Virgin Mary with ultramarine, the newest and most expensive pigment at the time. The Virgin Mother’s updated wardrobe resulted in blue being associated with holiness, humility and virtue.

During the Renaissance, artists began to paint the world as it was seen in real life, mixing blue hues with lead white paint to articulate shadows and highlights. In Titian’s Noli me Tangere and Bacchus and Ariadne, different shades of blue are layered to cultivate depth and tension. In another example, Raphael’s Madonna of the Meadow depicts Mary wearing a deep blue mantle set against a red dress, a striking contrast against a background populated with brown and light blue hues.

Rococo to contemporary art

The Rococo art movement depicted mythology and light-hearted portrayals of upper-class domestic life with pastel blue skies and rich blue furnishings. Romanticism used blue predominantly to convey drama in the heavens, and Impressionists like Claude Monet used blue to investigate light and movement in both natural and artificial landscapes.

Emphasizing strong colour over the representational, Fauvist Henri Matisse’s figures in Dance circle naked under an open blue sky. Expressionist van Gogh’s seminal Starry Night, conveys the night sky in active blues and yellows. Cubist Pablo Picasso’s extensive use of Prussian blue defined his Blue Period while Surrealists adopted blue to simultaneously orientate and disorientate the viewer.

From the 20th century artists began to free themselves from the confines of the literal. As a result, artists looked to color as a tool to channel emotion. Exemplified in abstract expressionism, Jackson Pollock‘s Blue Poles, is made up of chaotic strands of blacks, greens, oranges, whites, yellows and grays tempered by nine vertical blue lines. Mark Rothko experimented extensively with blue, as did Barnett Newman, both artists using color as a device to transcend the confines of the canvas. And Helen Frankenthaler‘s stained blues emphasize both the flattening and dimensionality of space.

With the arrival of modern technologies and materials, contemporary examples of blue in art are rich and varied. Roger Hiorns’ crystalline Seizure, transformed space with color, light and chemistry. Katharina Fritsch’s Hahn/Cock plays with our sense of scale and relationship to animals. And Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirror, Blue challenges our perceptions of an urban environment, re-imagining the landscape through the lens of a large, blue concave mirror.

Blue in photography

Birthed from nature and art, blue’s associations play a critical role in conveying the nature of the photographic image. Luigi Ghirri explored the relationship between shape and space by incorporating large fields of blue sky into his imagery. Color pioneer Martin Parr makes use of rich blues to create a surreal juxtaposition between subject, object and nature. Bill Henson uses blue hues to cultivate experiential photographic dramas. David Burdeny photographs precision landscapes, using blue to illustrate the materiality of his abstract vistas. While Gregory Crewdson and Didier Massard both use blue to signal time, place and atmosphere throughout their imagery.

The color blue has other applications in photography too. Occurring just after sunset and just before sunrise, the blue hour is a period when the sun drops below the horizon and residual sunlight takes on a blue hue. Valued for its soft quality of light, blue hour is popular with portrait and landscape photographers. In addition, blue filters (applied on-camera or in post production) are used in black and white photography to increase the appearance of mist and haze.


Yves Klein once said “blue has no dimensions, it is beyond dimensions”. Over history, blue has communicated the ineffable, transcending colour and touching on our spirituality and sense of self. Associated with nature, calm, reverence, purity, trust and sorrow, blue embodies the visual weight of emotion and human experience.

Have you used blue in your photography? Feel free to share them with us in the comments below.

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Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color YELLOW and its use in Photography


mastering color series - Blue

The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color BLUE and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color YELLOW and its use in Photography

The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color YELLOW and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

In her diary, Frida Kahlo once wrote, “Yellow: madness, sickness, fear (part of the sun and of joy).” As one of the oldest pigments used by humans, the spectrum of attributes associated with yellow makes it an enduring presence in art and design. In this article, we’ll look at the evolution and artistic impact of yellow from prehistoric to contemporary visual arts.

The psychology of yellow

As one of yellow’s oldest embodiments, the sun and yellow are inextricably linked, the qualities of the sun (warmth, energy, and radiance) reflected in human perceptions of the color yellow. Throughout history, the sun came to be viewed by many cultures as a figure of heavenly might. As a result, yellow has also inherited connotations of power, knowledge, imperishability, and status.

Many associations attributed to yellow originate in nature. For example, sunlight shifting the darkness of night has forged a relationship between yellow and joy. Spring-blooming flowers like daffodils, dandelions, wattle, and forsythia draw connections between yellow, rebirth and renewal. The yellowing of Autumnal leaves cultivates associations of change, balance, and age. Vibrant hues of lemons, bananas, and corn characterize yellow as a color of nourishment.

And in some cases, dangerous plants, insects and animals, exhibit yellow as a sign of warning.

Yellow has strong historical and cultural significance in China, where it is the color of glory, royalty, happiness, and wisdom. However, in many Latin American cultures, yellow is associated with death, sorrow, and mourning. Similarly, yellow is seen as a color of mourning in some parts of the Middle East.

In Japanese culture, yellow signifies courage, refinement and wealth. In Africa, yellow is worn to signify high-ranking members of a community. Saffron, a bright orange-yellow is considered sacred in India, representing selflessness and courage.

Yellow’s high visibility sees extensive use in safety equipment and signage. Due to its reflective properties, however, yellow can also lead to visual fatigue. Yellow’s associations with energy can be related to impulsivity and egotism. A close relative of gold, yellow is associated with money, wealth and sometimes greed. To be called yellow-bellied is to be called a coward.

The evolution of the color yellow

Yellow ochre

A natural clay earth pigment, yellow ocher’s availability and versatility saw wide-spread use from the prehistoric period. Gavin Evans, writer of The Story of Colour: an Exploration of the Hidden Messages of the Spectrum, states that “in the Bomvu Ridge area of Swaziland, archaeologists have found 40,000-year-old mines used to dig out red and yellow ochre, thought to be used for body paint.”

Ancient cave paintings made with yellow ochre pigments have been found at Pech Merle in France, Lascaux cave and at the cave of Altamira in Spain. The Aboriginals of Australia have painted with yellow ochres for over 40,000 years.

Today, artists continue to use yellow ochre in traditional forms and in modern paints.


Borrowing its name from the Latin word auripigmentum (aurum meaning gold and pigmentum meaning pigment), orpiment is found in volcanic fumaroles and hydro-thermal veins and hot springs. A richly colored orange-yellow arsenic sulfide, orpiment’s striking color captured the interest of both Chinese and Western alchemists looking for ways to create gold. Although highly toxic, orpiment saw use in Egypt, Persia, Asia, and Rome.

Indian yellow

Indian yellow was widely used in Indian watercolor and tempera-like paints. Noted for its use in Rajput-Mughal paintings from the 16th to the 19th century, Indian yellow was also used throughout Europe from the 17th to the 19th century.

Indian yellow pigments were said to have been produced in rural India from the urine of cattle fed solely on water and mango leaves. Today, a synthetic Indian yellow hue is manufactured using a mixture of nickel aso, arylide yellow, and quinacridone burnt orange.

Lead-tin yellow

Lead-tin yellow takes on two different forms. According to ColourLex, “the first and more frequently used is called Lead-tin-yellow type I and is a mixed oxide of both elements tin and lead… Lead-tin-yellow type II possibly contains traces of silica and also pure tin oxide.” The earliest occurrence of lead-tin yellow dates back to the 1300s. It was most frequently used in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Johannes Vermeer, Titian and Anthony van Dyck all made use of lead-tin yellow in their paintings.

Chrome yellow

When chromium was discovered in 1797 by French chemist Louis Vauquelin, lead chromate was synthesized and used as a pigment. In use by the second decade of the nineteenth century, chrome yellow’s toxicity and it’s inherent tendency to oxidize over time and darken on exposure to oxygen meant it was largely replaced by cadmium yellow.

Joseph Mallord William Turner made use of chrome yellow for highlights in his dramatic Romantic paintings. In aviation, the well-loved Piper J-3 Cub adopted chrome yellow as its standard color. Because of this, chrome yellow and similar equivalents are known as Cub yellow in aviation circles.

Cadmium yellow

Much of the cadmium produced worldwide is used in rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries. However, a portion of cadmium goes to the manufacture of cadmium pigments, a family of vibrant reds, yellows, and oranges. First discovered in 1817, good permanence and tinting properties mean cadmium yellow has remained in use since it began production in 1840. Claude Monet’s Wheatstacks (Sunset Snow Effect) and Still Life with Apples and Grapes are two examples of cadmium yellow’s application in art.

Arylide yellow

Arylide yellow (also known as Hansa yellow and Monoazo yellow) are a family of organic compounds used as industrial colorants for plastics, building paints, inks, oil paints, acrylics, and watercolors. Discovered in 1909 by Hermann Wagner in Germany, arylide yellow became commercially available around 1925 and has been used predominantly as a replacement for cadmium yellow since 1950. Alexander Calder and Jackson Pollock employed arylide yellow in their artworks.

Yellow in visual arts

Yellow’s propensity to capture attention makes it a commanding presence in visual art. Ancient Egyptians used yellow ocher to paint women’s skin tones and depict deities. Yellow ochre was also a staple on the palettes of Roman artists, who used it to lay down backgrounds and paint flesh-tones.

During the Medieval period, Judas Iscariot came to be depicted in yellow. The exact reasons for this are unclear. Nevertheless, Judas’ portrayal quickly garnered associations between yellow and jealousy, unease, tension, and betrayal. Despite its negative associations, however, artists continued to draw on yellow as a color of life and abundance. As one of the first artists to use commercially manufactured paints, Vincent van Gogh’s famous fascination with yellow culminated in numerous artworks including A Field Of Yellow FlowersDunes and his study of Sunflowers.

Painted during his Golden Period, Gustav Klimt’s, The Kiss is structured around luxuriant yellows and gold leaf. Pier Mondrian included yellow within his bold compositions of color and line. Artists like Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning also used yellow to foster lightness and movement within their paintings and Andy Warhol used vibrant shades of yellow to add a blocky, surrealistic tone to his images of pop culture icons and everyday objects.

With the arrival of the 21st century came the rise of new artistic materials and technologies. Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project generates an atmosphere suffused with the breathtaking light of an artificial yellow sun. Yayoi Kusama’s infinity rooms, seemingly endless fields of yellow pumpkins dotted with black polka dots, play with the nature and psychology of seeing. And James Turrell harnesses the changeable quality of light through his Skyspaces, which hem the yellow light of the morning and evening each day.

Yellow in Photography

The evocative nature of yellow and its associations with treachery, betrayal, joy, warning, and nature remain just as poignant within the frame of the photograph. Street photographer Saul Leiter incorporated swaths of yellow into his street scenes, adding a palpable rhythm to his work. Mark Cohens’ image of a blond boy brashly smoking into the camera lens is punctuated by the boy’s bright yellow skivvy. Gregory Crewdson often incorporates yellow light emanating from lamps or house windows, juxtaposing homeliness with palpable unrest. Frans Lanting’s depiction of a leopard stalking in grass explores yellow in the natural environment. Kyle Jeffers uses yellow to accent architectural landscapes and Annette Horn’s yellow images trace the energetic properties of yellow on the 2-dimensional photographic plane.

Yellow can also be applied as a creative tool in photography. Golden hour, the period of daylight that occurs just after sunrise and just before sunset, has a distinctively yellow hue. During this window, daylight is at its softest and warmest, creating opportunities for dynamic portraiture and landscape photography. Generally the most subtle of colored filters, yellow filters are used in black and white photography to darken skies slightly, and boost the contrast of green foliage. In portraiture, yellow filters also deliver warmer skin tones.


Yellow’s vibrancy has resonated with artists and viewers for thousands of years. As the most vivid color on the visible spectrum, yellow reflects the dynamics of life. Charged with associations of joy, rebirth, renewal, change and energy, yellow’s use in art has also communicated portrayals of jealousy, betrayal, and greed. Yellow’s vibrancy, versatility, and accessibility connects to audiences through associations drawn from both visual arts and the world around us.

Do you use the color yellow in your photography? Feel free to share your images and thoughts in the comments below.

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Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color RED and its use in Photography



The post Mastering Color Series – The Psychology and Evolution of the Color YELLOW and its use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Mastering Color Series – The Pschology and Evolution of the Color RED and it’s use in Photography

The post Mastering Color Series – The Pschology and Evolution of the Color RED and it’s use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Photography was invented in 1839 as a black and white medium. Finicky and cumbersome, most proponents of photography were more concerned with perfecting the photographic process without the added complexity of color. Some pioneers endured, creating new methods to convey the colored photographic image. But it was only in the 1930’s, when companies like Kodak and Agfa began introducing consumer-based color film that color photography started to become widely available and relatively affordable.

With color photography, photographers could create imagery with the emotional charge of colour

The invention and widespread use of color film had a significant impact on photography. Modern photographers could now depict a more realistic rendition of a scene, conveying the world in colors similar to that seen through the average human eye. But color photography had another purpose too. Photographers could now couple imagery with the emotional charge of color a lot more readily.

Over the course of history, humans have forged strong associations with colors. And while some associations are experiential, others speak to our evolution and the history of visual arts. In this series of articles, we’ll take a look at the history of different colors, how they have shaped our way of seeing and what it means for your photography.

The psychology of red

Color has a significant impact on our perceptions, emotions and physicality. Our earliest ancestors drew associations between red and the color of our blood, cultivating a strong visual link between red and danger, violence, and life. Humans evolved to prioritize red as a color of immediacy, warning and opportunity. For example, the appearance of fire links red to warmth and light, but also to destruction.

Associated with warmth and fire, red appeals to our emotions and our physicality

Because it commands our attention, red brings text and subjects to the foreground of an image. Red is also the international standard for stop signs and traffic lights. In nature, red Autumn leaves and vibrant sunsets appeal to our sense of time and season. Perhaps tied to the color of red roses – a flower traditionally associated with romance – red symbolizes passion, love and sex. Red appeals to our taste buds too, with foods like strawberries, apples, cherries, tomatoes and peppers all colored by forms of carotenoids – vibrant red pigments that assist photosynthesis.

Red has different associations in different cultures and beliefs. In some parts of Africa, red is a color of mourning, representing death. Traditionally worn at funerals, weddings and New Year festivities, red symbolizes good luck, happiness and prosperity in China. In Thai tradition, red is the color for Sunday, associated with Surya, a solar god. In the Indian subcontinent, red signifies purity, fertility, wealth, beauty and the goddess Lakshmi. And in Japan, red is the traditional color of heroism.

Informed by the enduring presence of red in visual arts, these inherent associations (and more) sculpt the way a viewer reads an image.

Evolution of the color red

Despite its numerous forms, red has held a constant place of significance throughout history. From Ocher to Cadmium Red, the evolution of red stems from our ancient reverence for the commanding hue.


Ocher is a naturally occurring pigment that ranges in color from yellow to deep orange or brown. When combined with hematite, ochre takes on a red tone. Dated around 36,000 years old, the red bison on the cave walls of Altamira in Spain are among some of the oldest examples of red being used in visual arts.

Red bison on the cave walls of Altamira in Spain. Image credit: By Museo de Altamira y D. Rodríguez, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link


Cinnabar, a natural mercuric sulfide, ranges in hue from deep brick to scarlet. Though highly toxic, Romans lorded over the brilliance of the red pigment, using it extensively in decoration. Cinnabar features prominently in the murals of upper-class villas in Pompeii. Starting with the Song dynasty, the Chinese employed cinnabar in elaborately carved lacquerware.


Ancient writers used the term vermilion to describe the pigment made from grinding up cinnabar. But vermilion also refers to a synthetic version of the color, invented in China. Renaissance paintings feature the latter regularly. Renowned renaissance artist Titian is known for his luxuriant vermilion accents.

Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin with vermilion accents. Credit: Titian [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Romans made minium, also known as red lead, by heating white lead to extremely high temperatures. Contrasting well against gold and marble, the Romans used minium mainly for inscriptions. Medieval illustrators made use of the pigment in their illuminated manuscripts but it was particularly popular with the Mugal artists from India and Persia in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Vincent van Gogh was an ardent user of minium. However, it has since been discovered that minium whitens under light, and some of van Gogh’s works have had their red accents fade as a consequence.


During their conquest of Mexico in the early 16th century, Spanish conquistadors were taken aback by the vibrant fabrics and face paint of the Aztecs. Derived from cochineal bugs, the Spanish soon started shipping large quantities of ‘Spanish Red’ to Europe. Artists quickly adopted carmine to adorn their elaborate dramas. However, like minium, carmine also had a tendency to fade, especially in sunlight. Cosmetics and red food coloring continue to employ carmine today.

Cadmium red

In 1817, a German chemist discovered a new element, cadmium, which became the basis for shades of yellow and orange paint. However, it took another 93 years before cadmium red became available commercially in 1910. Intense and lightfast, Henri Matisse was one of the first prominent users of the pigment. Other artists who adopted cadmium red include Edvard Munch, Francis Bacon and Clyfford Still.

Since the invention of cadmium red, technological advances have created a broad range of synthetic pigments and chemical processes for producing red pigment. Easier preparation and application, better archival qualities and a wide variety in shades have all become standard for red in paint, dyes and inks today.

henri matisse the red room

The Red Room by Henri Matisse. Credit: JD Lasica via Flickr

Red in visual arts

Because of its continuous presence in art history, the concept of red has evolved over time, encompassing new significance and meaning. We can’t be entirely sure what significance red held for our ancient ancestors. However, we can assume that at the very least that the use of red elevated the drawing from the rock, making the image appear more dimensional.

Medieval artists associated red with Pentecost, the holy spirit and the blood of Christian martyrs. In renaissance painting, red exploited the gaze of the viewer, cloaking Christ, the Virgin Mary or other substantial figures.

Baroque art saw deep and luminous reds conveyed in spectacular drama. Later, pre-raphaelite artists used shades of red and orange to paint the flowing locks of women and to draw attention to the symbolism nested within their artworks.

Lady Lilith by pre-raphaelite Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Image credit: By Dante Gabriel Rossetti – Delaware Art Museum, Public Domain, Link

Impressionist and post-impressionist artists used reds to convey light or accent detail. Fauvists however, crammed abundantly vibrant reds into scenes and portraits with almost violent tenacity. Only a few years later, abstract art abandoned objective subject matter. Used to punctuate, irritate and philosophate, abstract artists energized the viewer or engulfed them altogether in fields of ravenous red.

Mark Rothko (1903–1970). Four Darks in Red, 1958
Abstract expressionist Mark Rothko painted in deep reds. Credit: G. Starke via Flickr

Red in photography

With the advent of color photography, the creative possibilities for photographers flourished. The radical medium allowed photographers to depict color close to as it was in the field. Furthermore, inherent color associations carried over to color photography. Red’s enduring qualities allowed photographers to communicate visual cues based in evolution and in art.

As an early pioneer in color photography, Marie Cosindas‘ dispersal of reds throughout her still lifes and portraits resembles the technique of baroque still lifes. William Eggleston‘s famous photograph, The Red Ceiling, uses red as a stark undercurrent to a seemingly ordinary setting. In Saul Leiter’s dynamic renderings, red adds drama to the theater of the urban landscape.  Images like Dust Storm and Red Boy and Holi Festival by Steve McCurry document the history and materiality of red in art and culture. McCurry’s most well-known photograph, Afghan Girl depicts a young girl whose piercing eyes are further accentuated by the striking red scarf framing her face.

Nan Goldin’s use of red conveys atmospheric tension, as if the air itself were dense with color. Richard Mosse’s series Infra depicts the Congo in infra-red, rendering the green landscape in shades of pink and red, re-framing the nature of photojournalism.

The use of red isn’t limited to color photography either. Red filters (applied on/in-camera or in post production) absorb blue and green light, enhancing contrast. Famous landscape photographer Ansel Adams used red filters to dramatic effect, darkening the blue skies featured in his abundant vistas.

Ansel Adams used red filters to enhance the contrast of the sky in his photographs. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons


Faber Birren, an American author and consultant on color theory once said “red is the passionate and ardent hue of the spectrum, marking the saint and the sinner, patriotism and anarchy, love and hatred, compassion and war.” Red has been regularly utilized throughout history to denote concepts and experiences. Status, physicality, anger, warmth, love and danger are all aspects that have been characterized as having associations with red.

With the invention of color photography, red carried over to film and then digital media. And while it has different meanings in different cultures, red’s prominence throughout art history is a testament to its emotional and visual impact today.



The post Mastering Color Series – The Pschology and Evolution of the Color RED and it’s use in Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How Mark Rothko’s Paintings Can Inspire Your Photography

The post How Mark Rothko’s Paintings Can Inspire Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

I first encountered a painting by Mark Rothko when I was a uni student, perusing the National Gallery of Australia. Seeking the wisdom of abstract expressionists like Lee KrasnerClyfford Still and Hans Hofmann, I was somehow completely unaware of Rothko’s renowned canvases. So when I came across #20,1957 I was instantly mesmerized. In the reverent light of the gallery, the cells of the painting seemed to shift under my gaze, bleeding and retracting at once. And when I looked away, the after-image formed a striking hollow into the gallery surrounds.

I felt meditation and calm, but I also felt something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The ineffable. #20,1957 was like nothing I’d ever come across before.

My reaction to the Rothko painting wasn’t unique. Audiences around the world have reported a deep emotional experience when viewing Rothko’s work. Rothko hoped that in viewing his paintings, others would be drawn into a deep meditative state, a state of vulnerability and receptivity that he himself entered into while creating his artworks.

Today, Rothko’s motivations and techniques continue to inform not only painting but visual arts as a whole.

Mark Rothko

Born in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia) on September 25, 1903, Mark Rothko (born Marcus Rothkowitz) immigrated to the USA with his family in his youth. Inspired to take up art in the autumn of 1923, he began his artistic career painting urban life, portraits, nudes and landscapes. His portrayal of architectural space leaned on abstract compositional techniques, exploring the relationship between the painting and the viewer, an aspect that would play a critical role in his future works.

In the early 1940’s, Rothko shifted from painting the figurative to the symbolic, exploring themes such as prophecy, ancient myths, archaic ritual and the unconscious. Inspired by the surrealist method of automatic drawing, Rothko began to delve into more abstracted imagery, graduating almost entirely to abstraction by the late 1940’s. Unimpeded by the figurative or symbolic, Rothko stained the canvas with diluted oil paint, rendering shapes and forms with soft, indistinct edges, some outlined by luminous white halos.

Mark Rothko, No. 3 No. 13 1949, MOMA
No. 3 No.13, 1949 photo credit: Sharon Mollerus on Flickr

Rothko’s arrived at his signature style in the 1950’s. His expanses of graduated tones and ethereal light seemed to suspend vibratious squares and rectangles upon active planes of color. Toward the end of the 1950’s, Rothko began to paint in an increasingly darker, more restricted pallet.

Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
No. 9 (Dark over Light Earth/Violet and Yellow in Rose), 1954 photo credit: G. Starke on Flickr

In 1964, Rothko received a commission for a series of paintings for a non-denominational chapel in Huston, Texas – a space that was ideal for immersion in his stark, contemplative canvases. Unveiled in 1971, the paintings took 6 years to complete. However, sadly, Rothko never saw the culmination of the space. He committed suicide in his studio on February 25, 1970. He was 66.

Mark Rothko (1903-1970)
Black on Dark Sienna on Purple, 1960 photo credit: G. Starke  on Flickr

Making photos inspired by the art of Mark Rothko

Painting and photography are two different mediums, I know. There is a significant separation between the paintbrush and the camera (although there are some commonalities too). Creating photographic work inspired by Rothko’s paintings isn’t about mimicry, it’s about trying out different styles and techniques. While this article discusses ways to approach photography that reflects Rothko’s paintings, you don’t have to end up with an exact copy of Black on Dark Sienna on Purple, 1960 (I sure didn’t!).

Through the elements and principals of art and design, Rothko created work that communicates beyond seeing. Using the same principals, photographers can create work inspired by Rothko that challenges the viewer and plays with the concept of photography and visual arts.

Using color

When described solely as a colorist Rothko said, “if you are only moved by color relationships, you are missing the point.” Rothko used color as a path to realizing the unseen. Looking beyond the event of color as an optical phenomenon, Rothko constructed oscillating visions driven by our innate conceptions of color.

Like Rothko, photographers use color as a tool to convey an image beyond seeing. Our associations with color stem from experience and instinct. Emphasizing color over literal subject matter doesn’t just convey color relationships; it communicates emotion and ineffability.

Capturing photography imbued with color is simple enough, but may require a little exploration. Look for flat planes of solid or graduated color. Seemingly dull urban surfaces like doors, walls or panels come to life within the camera frame. Try to include as little objective evidence as possible, articulating the emotional charge of color without the disturbance of other visual detritus.

The color in this image breaks up space, conveying meaning through our inherent associations

Unfocused photography

Another way to exemplify color is through unfocused photography. Rothko created a visual vibration within his paintings by blurring the edges of his colors and forms. This effect can be re-imagined by unfocusing your camera lens (turn off Auto Focus first) before taking a photograph. Unfocused photography creates a painterly quality that emphasizes color over subject matter. Rather than taking pin-sharp photos, unfocused photography frees the edges of the components that make up a scene, creating a unique movement throughout the image.

Unfocused photography emphasizes color, creating a unique movement throughout the image

Rothko’s abstract expressionism

Although Rothko himself shrugged off classifications, his work is generally categorized as abstract expressionist. Developed in New York in the 1940’s, abstract expressionism refers to a movement of predominantly non-representative painters. Neither completely abstract nor completely expressionist, abstract expressionism encompassed a wide variety of styles and techniques. Overall however, the practitioners of abstract expressionism stood united in their desire to reinvent the nature of painting.

Abstract expressionism is understood today to be divided into two camps – the action painters and the color field painters. Considered a member of the latter, Rothko prioritized austere beds of color over the wild, diacritic mark. Rothko’s serene blocks generate an emotional aura predominately through shape, form, color and line. It’s these basic precepts that have translated into abstract photography.

Like abstract painting, abstract photography operates independently from depicting the objective. As a result, abstract photographers emphasize the non-objective, peeling back the literal to expose the bare bones of an image. Beyond language, abstraction investigates the visual, discards the literal and charges an image with potentiality.

Aerial photography cultivates abstraction through distance. Abstract macro photography closes in on a subject to reveal often unseen planes. Like Rothko’s paintings, what you exclude from a photograph is just as important as what you include. Turning your lens to strong shapes, forms, colors, textures and lines cultivates imagery that cuts through to the essence of visual language.

Abstract photography operates independently from depicting the objective


Through extensive layering, blending and blurring, Rothko manipulated hard-edged structures of color into stark, yet softly transcendent forms.

Intentional camera movement (ICM) uses the same principals of movement within a photograph. Through motion, ICM reduces a subject to shape, form, color, and line, creating an abstracted study of movement and light. Similar to painting, ICM involves the physical movement of the camera during an exposure. Also, like Rothko’s actions documented in the strokes of a brush, ICM creates an artwork that is visibly, inextricably linked to the experience of the photographer.

To take an ICM photograph, first, turn off autofocus and, if you have it, image stabilization. Set your camera to Shutter Priority, adjust your exposure time to around 1/2 of a second and turn your ISO down to the lowest setting on your camera. The longer your shutter speed, the more a subject will blur.

Point your camera at a subject, depress the shutter and physically move the camera. Once the shutter closes, review the result on your LCD screen. Your movement will register as blurred lines within the image.

The nature of ICM is that it is both simple and experimental – it takes some adjustment to perfect. Explore different combinations of subject matter, time of day, focus, shutter speed, aperture, and movement to create an image you’re happy with. Moreover, don’t forget to wear your camera strap!


Saying once that “the most interesting painting is one that expresses more of what one thinks than of what one sees,” Rothko shifted the way art is made and observed. Now, with the advent of digital photography, we have new ways to communicate visually.

However, Rothko’s reflections on the human spirit continue to resonate as a vital pause amongst visual loudness. Through his use of color, abstract expressionism and movement, Rothko’s work transcend artistic mediums, informing and inspiring contemporary practice today.

The post How Mark Rothko’s Paintings Can Inspire Your Photography appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Walking the Line – How Using Line in Photography Can Enhance Your Images

The post Walking the Line – How Using Line in Photography Can Enhance Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Defined in Wikipedia as the “marks that span a distance between two points,” lines on their own don’t sound particularly enthralling. But when you think about it, the very basis of visual arts centers on the use of line. Take painting for instance; many paintings start as line drawings. These lines intersect to form shapes. The shapes are then filled with tone and color and the process continues, building on the scaffold of line to create an image.

It’s no wonder that line is probably the most versatile of the elements of art. In photography, every photograph hinges upon the reproduction of a scene constructed by lines. Even the physical edges of a photograph are dictated by the lines of the photographic frame it is within.

By deliberately incorporating different types of line into an image, a photographer can take greater control over the way an image gets read. Here, we’ll look at the different types and characteristics of line and why you should prioritize them in your photography.

Why use line?

As one of the intrinsic elements of art, line appeals to our innate understanding of the visual landscape. Delineating shape and form, line constructs a narrative in an image, guiding a viewer’s eye around a photograph. The use of various forms of line set the emotional tone of an image while leading lines create an optical entry and exit point. By mindfully incorporating line into your photography you can take control of the viewer’s gaze, therefore, maximizing presence and impact.

Types of line

Trees, buildings, roads, or rivers – line takes on a new life depending on the environment. Focusing on specific types of line creates connections with a viewer and builds images that have depth and substance.


The horizon is the line that separates the sky from the earth. Derived from the Greek words for “separating circle,” “to divide” and “to separate,” the horizon dictates the way we orient ourselves. It marks the furthest distance the eye can see. If the horizon is obscured, the resulting junction of earth and sky is called the visible horizon. Nevertheless, the horizontal line is innately linked to nature.

Horizontal lines read as an organic presence in a photograph. Our associations with the gradual rise and fall of the sun over the horizon evokes a sense of time and rhythm. Because humans generally sleep horizontally, we associate horizontal lines with relaxation, rest and stability.

That said, the majority of travel functions on a horizontal trajectory, meaning that horizontal lines can also denote a sense of motion. In situations involving panning or slow shutter speed photography, the path of the horizontal line anchors the image to a readable axis, accentuating motion through motion-blur and adding a unique dynamism to an image.


The vertical line has come to be seen as a symbol of quiet endurance. Maintaining the integrity of a photograph through our visual associations with strength, vertical lines add vitality to a photograph.

As mentioned before, humans sleep horizontally and stand vertically, creating a visual association between energy and the act of being upright. The exclamation mark is another example of this. Its’ vertical stroke suspended above a full stop to communicate action and energy at the end of a sentence.

Though associated with steadfast urban structures, the vertical line can still hearken back to nature, delineating growth over the passage of time. The epigeal seed pushing through the earth follows a vertical path in the direction of the sun, cultivating a juxtaposition between the urban and natural environments.


As one of the first Western artists to focus entirely on non-representational forms of painting, Wassily Kandinsky experimented heavily with the geometrical elements that make up an artwork. Published in 1926, Kandinsky wrote extensively on the artistic attributes of line in his book Point and Line to Plane. In the book, he stated that “the third line is the diagonal which, in schematic form diverges from both [vertical and horizontal line]…at the same angle…a circumstance which determines its inner sound…diagonal line is the most concise form of the potentiality for endless…movement”.

A painting by Wassily Kandinsky courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Often diminishing from the foreground into the depths of a photograph as leading lines, diagonals lift an image off the page. When repeated in close conjunction or zig-zagged, diagonal lines create a vibration that plays with our vision like an optical illusion.

Free from the constraints of vertical/horizontal orientation, the diagonal line operates as a visual hive of activity. While solid horizontal and vertical lines imply stasis, the diagonal line teeters between the two, generating a palpable sense of kinetic energy.


From the event of the early human, curves have held a particular fascination in the visual arts. Simple to create, yet visually complex, the decorative use of curves has been discovered on countless examples of ancient art.

Megalithic art featuring curved demarcations courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Adopted as a traditional art concept in Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, many figures were sculpted on the double-curvature of the S. This S curve was proclaimed as the “line of beauty” by 18th-century painter, satirist, and writer, William Hogarth. Hogarth said that the curve signified liveliness and activity, as opposed to “straight lines, parallel lines, or right-angled intersecting lines, which signify stasis, death, or inanimate objects.”

As a line, curves join point A to point B. The difference lies in the path the curved line takes, traveling in bends and dips before arriving at a destination. A curved river winding through a landscape may connect the foreground with the background, but it does so in its own time, imparting a sense of calm and ease.

Implied lines

Perhaps the most intriguing line of all, implied lines are implied by other visual components in an image. Gesticulations, points of interest, lines of sight, arrows, similarities and movement all create implied lines. These implied lines tow the viewer’s eye from one point to the next within a frame.

Without the strict use of a physical line, implied lines lend momentum and narrative to an image. Think of ancient astrologers joining up the stars with implied lines to create celestial beings. Or, the movement of a car in a particular direction, sweeping the viewer’s eye along with the subject. Neither example makes use of a dedicated line. However, each has the effect of composing a network of lines that make the image more interesting and readable.

Characteristics of line

Along with the different types of line, there are different characteristics of line. Thick, thin, soft, and hard. These characteristics govern the nature of a line, adding depth and interest to an image.


The width of a line refers to its thickness. Dictated by their real-life physicality, thicker lines are stronger and have a bolder presence. A thin line is easier to break and therefore has more delicate connotations. Width also refers to the tapering of a line. A line that disappears into the background of an image creates a visual illusion of depth. A line with an uneven or jerky width denotes a sense of playfulness, texture or unrest.


Length covers the overall length of a line. A short line indicates immediacy or action. Long lines denote a feeling of space and calm. Length also dictates the continuity of a line. A broken line gives the impression of movement, like the imprint of footsteps in the sand. Continuous lines, like those often found in landscapes, are more relaxed.


The feeling of a line dictates its visual tactility. Visual tactility is the way a viewer feels about a subject just by looking at it. Over a lifetime we compile a mental bank of the physical sensations we encounter. When stimulated visually to access this mental bank, we mentally experience sensation without actually touching a subject. For example, a picture of a line tapered to a sharp point can stimulate the impression of a pin-prick. By exploiting the tactile characteristics of line (such as roundness or roughness), a photographer can appeal to a viewer physically as well as visually.


As discussed above, line can sprout from any direction. Depending on the subject (and the orientation of the camera), line can be vertical, horizontal, diagonal or curved. The direction of the line dramatically alters the reading of an image, creating (or deconstructing) a scene. For example, a horizontal line evokes a sense of nature and time, whereas a diagonal line charges an image with energy.


The focus of a line is much like the measure of focus in a photograph. Some lines can be sharp, others blurry or fuzzy. The focus of a line illustrates how smoothly it blends into other segments of a photograph. A sharp line is an abrupt contrast, commanding attention. A blurry or faint line is more subtle, easing from one subject to the next, creating a gentle transition between subject matter.


A vast number of emotional associations are connected with color. Rooted in both cultural and universal experience, studies show that different colors have different influences on the brain. This means that a viewer will have a different visual experience based on the color make-up of a photograph.

The color of a line contributes significantly to the reading of a photograph. For example, a yellow line could signify energy or allude to danger. A blue line could signify calm or water. Connotations like these shape the outcome of an image, creating harmony (or disharmony) and adding impact.


Emotional connotations govern the experience of a viewer. For example, jagged lines foster an impression of energy and unrest whereas a serpentine S curve cultivates a more relaxed atmosphere.

From urban abstracts and landscapes to the human form, line appeals to our senses on a psychological level. Whether it be curvy, horizontal, jagged or diagonal, our innate associations make line a valuable tool to convey emotion.


As painter Jean-Michel Basquiat once said, “every line means something.” For an effective image, different components of composition must come together to form a cohesive body of information. As one of the most versatile elements of design, line speaks to our sense of the world. Through the mindful combination of the types and characteristics of line, you as a photographer can convey a unique experience to a viewer on both a conscious and subconscious level.

The post Walking the Line – How Using Line in Photography Can Enhance Your Images appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop

The post How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

They may look cute, but toy cameras aren’t actually toys at all. The name refers to inexpensive film cameras made predominantly of plastic and paired with a simplistic lens.

From around the 1990s, toy cameras garnered popularity for their distinctive aesthetic. Cameras like the Diana and Holga are embraced, light leaks and all, for their wonderfully unpredictable results.

With their vignetting, blurry focus and lens distortion, photographers armed with toy cameras relinquish control over the definitive outcome of the image, adding a palpable sense of serendipity to the photographic process.

Applying a toy camera effect to a digital photograph isn’t the same as using a toy camera itself, I know. But it’s a fun way to add a unique retro feel to a photograph while making use of the control that a digital camera affords.

Here’s how to add a toy camera effect to a digital photograph using Photoshop.

1. Cropping your image

Open up your image in Photoshop. Here’s my starting image.

The original image

Toy cameras work within a square format, so you’ll need to crop your photograph accordingly. Select the Crop Tool from the left toolbar. In the top toolbar, click on the dropdown menu that regulates the crop ratio. Select 1×1 (Square).

A square demonstrating the crop parameters will appear over your image. Adjust the parameters until you are happy and press enter.

2. Applying a vignette

With your layer selected in the Layers palette, go to Layer -> Duplicate Layer. A dialogue box will pop up. In the input field next to “As:” type “Layer 1” and click OK. This duplicates your current layer so you can work non-destructively.

Next, right click on Layer 1 and select Convert to Smart Object.

Select Filter -> Lens Correction and a dialog box will open. Click on the Custom tab. In the Vignette section of the Custom tab, adjust the Amount slider and the Midpoint slider until you have a nice, dark vignette (for this image I set the amount to -100 and the midpoint to +10). Repeat this step if you want a darker vignette.

Use the Lens Correction function to apply a vignette to your image

3. Adding blur

As I mentioned before, a lot of photographs taken with a toy camera are unfocused or blurry. To emulate this, make sure Layer 1 is selected and go to Filter->Blur->Gaussian Blur. In the Gaussian Blur window set the Radius from 5 to 10 pixels depending on your image and click OK.

In the Gaussian Blur window set the Radius from 5 to 10 pixels depending on your image and click OK

4. Adjusting colors

Toy cameras often lend a distinctive color-cast to photographs. In the layers panel, click on the Create a new fill or adjustment layer button and select Curves. In the Curves adjustment palette click on the RGB menu, select the red channel and create a shallow ‘S’ bend. Select the green channel and apply the same shallow ‘S’ shape. Now select the blue channel and create an inverted ‘S’.

Use the curves function to emulate the distinctive color-cast often encountered in photos taken with a toy camera

5. Creating light leaks

One fun characteristic of toy cameras are light leaks. A light leak is caused by a hole or gap in the body of the camera, allowing light to “leak” into the film chamber. This exposes the film to excess light. The result is whimsical fields of color that add character to a photograph and illustrate the photographic process.

To emulate light leaks you first need to create a new layer. Click on the Create a new layer button at the bottom of the layers panel and rename the layer “Light leaks”.

Select your brush tool and set the brush size to around 2000 and your hardness to 0%. Set the foreground color to your preferred color – usually red, yellow or blue. With the “Light leaks” layer selected, dot or streak one or two patches of color over your image.

Once you are done painting the light leaks, change the Blending Mode of the layer by clicking on the Blending Modes dropdown menu and selecting Color. You can change the opacity of the light leaks by toggling the Opacity slider on the layers panel too.


And there you have it. Now that you know how to add a toy camera aesthetic to your photograph, the possibilities are endless. This is a great opportunity to make use of unfocused, spotty or noisy digital images. It’s the next best thing to using a real toy camera yourself!

Here are a couple of my own creations below, post yours in the comments!


The post How to Add a Toy Camera Effect to Your Digital Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop

The post How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

Have you ever taken a photograph and wondered what it would look like in a different color? Or perhaps you find a particular color distracting and want to swap it for a more subtle tone? Maybe you want to ramp up the impact, using more vibrant colors to make your image pop?

With the help of Photoshop, swapping the colors of different elements in a photograph is quick and easy. Here are two ways to switch the colors in your image to make them more dynamic.

Method one – Using the Replace Color Panel

The Replace Color panel is a simple tool designed to tweak color selections. When you select a specific color in the image, the Replace Color function grabs similar colors, allowing you to change them within the same action.

Step 1 – Preparing your image

First, open your image in Photoshop. To edit non-destructively we need to duplicate the layer. That way, we can go back to the original image at any time. Select your image in the Layers Pallet, then go to Layer -> Duplicate Layer. Alternatively, you can right-click on your image in the layers panel and click Duplicate Layer or drag your layer onto the New Layer icon.

Step 2 – Selecting a Color to Replace

With your duplicate layer selected in the Layers Pallet go to Image -> Adjustments -> Replace Color and the Replace Color panel will pop up. Check the Localized Color Clusters and Preview options. The cursor will automatically be converted to an eyedropper icon, so click on the color in the image that you want to replace. This highlights the color in white in the preview thumbnail, so you can see how much of the color is selected.

Go to Image -> Adjustments -> Replace Color to open the Replace Color panel


Click on the color in the image that you want to replace. This highlights the selection in white in the preview thumbnail

Step 3 – Adjusting the range

The next step is to add further shades of your chosen color to the selection so it looks more natural. With the Replace Color panel still open, hold down the shift key and click on more shades of your selected color in the image. This adds new shades of your selected color to the preview thumbnail.

If you accidentally select an area, hold down the alt key and click the area again to deselect the selection. You can adjust the edges of the selection with the Fuzziness slider, this dictates the sharpness of the edges in the selection.

Step 4 – Swapping the color

In the Replace Color panel, use the Replacement Hue slider to adjust the color of your selection. Once you’re happy with the color, use the Saturation slider to increase or decrease the intensity of the replacement color. You can also adjust the Lightness slider which tweaks the shade of the replacement color.

Use the Replacement Hue slider to adjust the color of your selection

To make sure the edges of the selection have adequate coverage, you may need to readjust the Fuzziness slider.

Once you’re happy with your results, click OK. Your adjustments will be applied to your image and you’re good to go!

Method two – Using the Color Replacement Tool

The Color Replacement Tool is an alternative to using the Replace Color panel. With the Color Replacement Tool, you can apply a replacement color to a more targeted area in the image.

Step 1- Preparing Your Image

Just like in the first method, we need to duplicate the original layer so we can return to the original image if required. Select your image in the Layers Palette then go to Layer -> Duplicate Layer or right click on the layer in the Layers Pallet and click Duplicate Layer.

Step 2 – Selecting the Color Replacement Tool

Accessing the Color Replacement Tool is a little tricky. Click and hold the cursor over the Brush Tool on the left toolbar and several brush options will appear. Select the Color Replacement Tool.

Step 3 – Setting your foreground color

With the Color Replacement Tool selected, set your foreground color to the color you want to replace your current color with. So if you want to change a red subject to blue, select blue as your foreground color.

Set your foreground color to the color you want to replace your current color with

Step 4 – Applying color with the Color Replacement Tool

With the Color Replacement Tool selected, brush over the area of color you want to replace. You can adjust the settings of the brush (size, shape, tolerance) in the top menu bar.

With the Color Replacement Tool selected, brush over the area of color you want to replace


Color is a wonderful and versatile element of composition. But sometimes the right color scheme is elusive. That’s where the Color Replacement tools come in handy. Now you’ve read the guide, why not give it a go? Post your results in the comments below!

The post How to Replace Colors in Your Images Using Photoshop appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History

The post 9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

The history of women photographers dates back to the beginnings of photography itself. Yet while names like Ansel Adams and Man Ray have floated to the top of the photographic vernacular, the contribution of women in photography has been diluted or erased from history altogether. In this, photography is no less guilty than other forms of art. Yet there is no doubt that the omission of women, both unintentionally and intentionally, leaves a gaping hole in the narrative of photography.

In this article, I turn the spotlight on women who shaped photographic history. These 9 women (and many more) asserted their presence through both technical and artistic ingenuity. Here is a brief recount of their stories.

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815 – 1879)

A portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Julia Margaret Cameron received her first camera as a gift from her daughter in 1863. Cameron threw herself into photography, crafting portraits and staged scenes inspired by literature, mythology, and religion.

Cameron rejected the meticulous photo-reality sought after by her contemporaries. Instead, she favored a dreamlike softness saying “…when focusing and coming to something which, to my eye, was very beautiful, I stopped there instead of screwing on the lens to the more definite focus which all other photographers insist upon.”

The revolving door of luminaries in Cameron’s home provided her with ample opportunity to produce piercing character studies of some of the most famous people of the period. Her portraits represented some of the earliest examples of art meeting formal practice.

Cameron was a prolific photographer. Over 16 years, Cameron created more than 1,200 images – a staggering amount considering the laborious process involved to create each finished piece.

Mary Steen (1856 – 1939)

Mary Steen excelled at indoor photography. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Mary Steen was a photographer and feminist from Denmark, Scandinavia. She excelled at indoor photography, a particularly difficult field due to the lack of electrically powered light sources available at the time.

In 1888, Stern became Denmark’s first female court photographer, a role that involved photographing both Danish and British royals. In 1891, she became the first woman on the board of the Danish Photographic Society.

Steen was also a member of the Board of Directors for the Danish Women’s Society. Together with Julie Laurberg, she photographed leading figures in the Danish women’s movement. In 1896, Steen started working as a photographer to Alexandra, Princess of Wales, the later Queen of England.

Steen encouraged other women to take up photography. She campaigned for better conditions at work, including eight day’s holiday and a half day off on Sundays. Leading by example, she treated her staff well, paying them fair wages.

Imogen Cunningham (1883 – 1976)

“Succulent” by Imogen Cunningham. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Known for her botanical, nude and industrial photography, Imogen Cunningham was one of America’s first professional female photographers.

After studying photographic chemistry at university, Cunningham opened a studio in Seattle. Cunningham drew acclaim for her portraiture and pictorial work. Subsequently, she invited other women to join her, publishing an article in 1913 called “Photography as a Profession for Women.”

Cunningham never confined herself to a single genre or style of photography. In 1915 Cunningham’s then-husband, Roi Partridge posed for a series of nude photographs. The nudes achieved critical appraise, despite being a taboo subject for a female artist at the time.

A two-year study of botanical subjects resulted in Cunningham’s opulently lit magnolia flower. She also turned her lens toward industry and fashion.

It was Cunningham who said “which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.”

Gertrude Fehr (1895 – 1996)

An example of solarization, a darkroom technique used by the New Photography movement in Paris that can now be emulated in Photoshop

After studying at the Bavarian School of Photography, Gertrude Fehr apprenticed with Edward Wasow. In 1918, Fehr opened a studio for portraiture and theater photography.

During 1933, the political climate forced Fehr to leave Germany with Jules Fehr. Settling in Paris, the couple opened the Publi-phot school of photography. The school specialized in advertising photography, a pioneering program at the time.

Fehr participated in the New Photography movement in Paris. Exhibiting artists alongside Man Ray, Fehr explored the artistic boundaries of photography, producing photograms, photomontages, and solarized prints.

During the 1930s, Gertrude and Jules Fehr moved to Switzerland. There, they opened a photography school in Lausanne, now known as the Ecole Photographique de la Suisse Romande.

Fehr gave classes in portrait, fashion, advertising and journalistic photography at the school until 1960 when she dedicated herself to freelance portraiture. Both her teaching and photography paved the way for contemporary photographic art.

Trude Fleischmann (1895 – 1990)

Trude Fleischmann with her work. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

After studying art in Paris and Vienna, Trude Fleishmann apprenticed with Dora Kallmus and Hermann Schieberth.

Fleischmann opened a studio when she was 25. Working with glass plates and artificial light, Fleishmann created deftly diffused portraits of celebrities. Her studio quickly became a hub for Viennese cultural life.

In 1925, Fleishmann took a nude series of dancer Claire Bauroff. Displayed at a theater in Berlin, the images were confiscated by police, winning Fleischmann international fame.

The Anschluss forced Fleischmann to leave the country in 1938. After settling in New York in 1940, she established a new studio where she resumed photographing celebrities, dancers and intellectuals including Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. Her introspective and atmospheric portraiture is viewed as art suffused with technical prowess.

Dorothea Lange (1895 – 1965)

Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother”. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Known for her work documenting the depression, American photographer Dorothea Lange’s “Migrant Mother” became a symbol of hardship and resilience in the face of economic collapse.

The majority of Lange’s early studio work centered around portraits of the social elite of San Francisco. With the commencement of the Great Depression, however, Lange transitioned from the studio to the streets.

Applying techniques she had developed for photographing portraits of wealthy clientele, Lange’s unapologetic studies led to her employment with the Farm Security Administration. There, she continued to document the suffering of victims of the depression. Soon, her powerful images became an icon of the era.

Described in her own words, Lange used the camera as “…an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera”. Her unflinching study of the human condition in the 20th century shaped photojournalism in a way that continues to resonate today.

Grete Stern (1904 – 1999)

A self-portrait by Grete Stern. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Originally a graphic designer, Grete Stern studied under Walter Peterhans in Berlin where she and Ellen Auerbach opened a well-regarded studio, ringl+pit.

Emigrating to England in 1933, Stern then traveled to Argentina with her husband, Horacio Coppola. They opened an exhibition literary magazine Sur hailed as “the first serious exhibition of photographic art in Buenos Aires.”

By the mid-1940s, Stern was well established in Buenos Aires. She worked with women’s magazine Idilio, illustrating reader-submitted dreams through photomontage. Stern incorporated feminist critiques into her pieces which became popular with readers.

In 1964, Stern traveled Northeast Argentina, producing over 800 photos of Aboriginals in the region. The body of work is considered to be the most significant Argentinian record of its time.

“Photography has given me great happiness,” said Stern in 1992. “I learned a lot and [said] things I wanted to say and show”.

Ylla (1911 – 1955)

Ylla photographing a toucan. Image courtesy of Wikipedia – ©Pryor Dodge at the English Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (]

Animal photographer, Ylla (Camilla Koffler) originally studied sculpture under Petar Palavicini at the Belgrade Academy of Fine Arts, moving to Paris to continue her studies in 1931.

Working as an assistant to photographer Ergy Landau, Ylla began photographing animals on holiday. Encouraged by Landau, Ylla started exhibiting, opening a studio dedicated to pet photography shortly after.

Ylla’s first major book, Petits et Grands was published in 1938. That same year she collaborated with British evolutionary biologist Julian Huxley for his book Animal Language.

During 1941 Ylla immigrated to the United States. She opened a new studio in New York, photographing a miscellany of animals from lions and tigers to birds and mice.

In 1955, Ylla fell from a jeep while photographing a bullock cart race in India. She was fatally wounded. Her New York Times obituary read that Ylla “…was generally considered the most proficient animal photographer in the world.”

Olive Cotton (1911 – 2003)

“Teacup Ballet” by Olive Cotton. Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Describing her process as “drawing with light”, Olive Cotton’s Teacup Ballet has become synonymous with her artful command over light and shadow.

After studying English and Mathematics at university, Cotton pursued photography by joining childhood-friend Max Dupain at his studio in Sydney.

Besides assisting Dupain, Cotton also perused her own work. Cotton and Dupain were married briefly and she ran the studio in his absence during the war. She was one of the few professional women photographers in Australia at the time.

In 1944, Cotton married Ross McInerney, moving to a property near Cowra, NSW. Cotton gave up work as a professional photographer until 1964 when she opened a small photographic studio.

In the early 1980s, Cotton reprinted negatives she had taken over the past forty years or more. The resulting retrospective exhibition in Sydney in 1985 earned her recognition as a key figure in the development of Australian photography.


It’s impossible to cover the sheer number of women that have embodied the tenacity and creativity of a photographer’s spirit in a single article. With this piece, however, I hope to have encapsulated some of the resolves of the generations of women who have shaped photographic history. And although we aren’t all the way to achieving equality yet, thanks to the female photographers of the past and present, we’re a lot closer than we used to be.


The post 9 Pioneering Women Who Shaped Photographic History appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

5 Tips for Photographing Flowers with Impact

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Flowers with Impact appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

1 - 5 Tips for Photographing Flowers with Impact

If like me, you live in the southern hemisphere, you’ll be well amongst the season of spring. Although this can mean the onset of the dreaded hay fever season, it’s a great time of the year for photographers to capture an amazing diversity of flowers that bloom in the warmer months.

Flowers make beautiful subjects for photography. In fact, they’re probably one of the most photographed subjects in history. An abundance of colors, species, and sizes means that flowers provide an endless array of photographic opportunities.

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However, floral photography isn’t limited to spring either. If you aren’t currently living it up in the southern hemisphere, now is a great time to show some self-love and buy yourself a beautiful bouquet of flowers…because you deserve it! And for photography purposes, of course.

No matter if you are in the thralls of spring or living vicariously through this post, this quick list is a great way to load up on ideas for that next floral shoot.

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Macro photography

Macro photography is the photographic reproduction of small subjects at a size that is larger than real life. Through macro photography, a photographer can take extreme close-up photographs of small subjects, reproducing them at a much larger size. Macro photography is often used to photograph flowers because it reveals attributes that can’t be seen by the naked eye. It’s easy to observe a flower in passing. But it takes a photographer to reveal the hidden details of a flower’s complex shape and structure.

A variety of dedicated macro lenses, as well as extension tubes and filters, mean that macro photography gear is becoming more and more accessible. For my macro flower photography, I use a set of extension tubes. They’re simple, don’t break the budget and they produce lovely results.

4 - 5 Tips for Photographing Flowers with Impact

5 - 5 Tips for Photographing Flowers with Impact


Abstract photography itself is a little hard to describe. Wikipedia defines abstract photography as “…a means of depicting a visual image that does not have an immediate association with the object world”. Abstract photography relies on compositional aspects like form, shape, color, line, and texture without worrying too much about depicting identifiable subject matter.

It’s a complicated subject, but flower photography is a great excuse to explore abstract photography for yourself. Try focusing on the details that make up the network of organic shapes in a flower, or home in on the subtle lines that form the flower’s shape. Don’t worry too much about the bigger picture. Go for it – it’s a lot of fun!

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In this abstract image, the flowing lines and natural color lend the impression of an organic subject


Focusing on a colorful subject matter is a great way to form a dialogue between a photograph and viewer. Flowers are known for their abundance of color and variety. Their beautiful and sometimes surprising hues make them wonderfully diverse photographic subjects.

For vibrant color in your floral photography, you want to photograph a well-lit subject. If you are photographing outside, aim to shoot on a day with a good amount of sunlight. If you are inside or shooting on a particularly cloudy day, try incorporating on-camera flash into your photography. Direct flash will usually blow out a subject, so try using a diffuser or bouncing your flash for a softer effect that will lift a flower’s color without washing it out.

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Taking advantage of the color in floral subjects will allow you to build up a body of diverse botanical photography by relying on the natural features of the flower

Black and White

Of course, not all flower photography has to be in color. Color photography can have the drawback of directing attention away from the subject itself. Black and white photography, on the other hand, enhances form and texture by minimizing distraction.  And because flowers are associated with color, black and white photography also lends a timeless, surreal angle to your floral imagery.

To photograph flowers in black and white, you can set your camera to shoot in monochrome mode. Or, you can convert your images to black and white in post-production with programs like Photoshop or Lightroom. Either way, black and white photography is a great way to add a unique perspective to your flower photography.

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This photograph of was taken using a process called Scanography. The black and white scheme accentuates the subtle details in the subject


Perspective dictates the way a viewer places themselves in a photograph. As a basic example, a high perspective can remove the viewer from the scene, inviting them to asses a photographic environment clinically. It introduces a sense of unease, as height is considered innately dangerous. A low perspective amplifies the height of subjects, lending a sense of grandeur to an environment. At the same time, it can also instill a feeling of ‘smallness’ in the viewer, as if they were an ant inspecting an impossibly tall building.

Viewers get drawn to images that are out of the ordinary. Creatively utilizing your camera’s point of view challenges the way a viewer sees their surroundings. For a unique twist on perspective, try photographing floral subjects down at their level. It’s amazing how much a subject can be transformed with a quick change in perspective.

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Focusing on color, black and white, perspective, macro, and abstract photography are only some of the ways to approach flower photography. Even the smallest flower poking its head through the cracks in a path can bring a smile to someone’s face. So, combining photography and flowers is sure a sure-fire way to create beautiful imagery. I’d love to see your results below!

The post 5 Tips for Photographing Flowers with Impact appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Megan Kennedy.

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