Photography is a great way to “learn by doing”, and in the digital age it is no longer a costly thing to experiment with photographs. Memory cards are relatively inexpensive and taking one hundred photographs costs nothing except the time the photographer dedicated to making them.
Something that any photographer must do then is experiment with color, particularly with bold colors. This is because they are among the most powerful ways to create a feeling or mood in a photograph. When bolder colors are used, however, the photographer must be well-aware of their effects on neighboring colors or the entire image.
A first consideration when color is going to be used to add drama or meaning to a photograph is the sort of light in which the colors exist. Colors are actually easier to record when the lighting in the scene is indirect, less powerful, or even subdued.
Consider flower photography, experienced photographers tend to grab their cameras and head to flower gardens when the day is overcast and gloomy. This is because the nature of the light allows the colors to really “pop”, and the lack of brilliant sun allows colors to show without reflecting or bleeding into one another.
Because most people can’t just head out for a photography session whenever the lighting is ideal, they can create some artificial conditions to capture bold colors more effectively. The first approach requires the purchase of a polarizing filter, and some experimentation in using it properly. This is an item that cannot be just screwed into the lens and then used, it must be turned to the proper angle from the subject to allow the vibrancy of the light to be controlled. A polarizing lens will reduce glare, but many photographers also use them to intensify color and make it much more saturated in the photograph.
If a lens is not an option, the photographer can also achieve a bit of the same effect by simply taking their camera’s settings down a single stop. This means adjusting the aperture down (which requires the number of the setting to actually increase by one measure). This lets less light into the lens and can often present some of the same looks as the use of a filter. The photographer might instead opt to dial down the ISO, which makes the camera sensor less sensitive to the light entering it as well.
When using bold colors it is always important to consider that they might impact the composition by creating a different mood as well. Consider the mood created by images of autumn leaves – the brilliant yellows and reds create a sense of warmth that is predominantly the result of the colors alone. When these colors fade to variants of brown they present a much more somber tone.
Top image by Ray Euden