Use Colors to Create Mood in Your Photograph

Colors are known to affect our emotions, whether subconsciously or directly. Bright colors can make us feel cheerful while dark, somber hues can trigger feelings of sadness or even fear. The colors in a photograph can be a powerful tool used to create a particular mood you want to achieve. Here are tips and tricks when using colors to create mood:

Have a basic understanding of color association – for many people, various hues of color often hold symbolic meanings, depending on the context in which it is used or on a person’s perception. For some, the prominent presence of red in a photograph may represent romance and passion while for others, it can symbolize danger or anger. When composing, be mindful of how colors are presented since viewers can gather deeper meanings which can trigger a particular emotional response.


color photography
Photo by D. Sharon Pruitt

Use color filters to accentuate mood – mood can quickly be added to an ordinary looking photo just by adding a color filter. It may either be an actual color filter that you attach to the front of your lens, or you can add the color in post-processing. Some are quite inventive and will cover the front of their lens with colored plastic. The color filter can give an overall hue to your image which can create a specific mood. For example, a sepia tone can add a retro appearance to your photo, which in turn can create mood that speaks of nostalgia, desolation, or sorrow.

color photography
Photo by Desmond Kavanagh

Take advantage of contrasts in color – colors have three main characteristics, namely hue (ex. red, yellow, blue), saturation (intensity), and lightness (light/dark). The contrasts in these elements are what makes each kind of color distinct. For example, a muted lemon yellow color in a photo will present a mood vastly different from a shot that has a vibrant deep yellow. The former may exude peacefulness and calm while the latter may present energy and excitement.

color photography
Photo by Konstantin Leonov

Focus on a predominant color – showing one main color in your photo can trigger a strong emotional response from viewers. For instance, in this photo below, the main color is a muted blue and covers the whole image frame. It exudes a sense of tranquility and a desolate beauty. Since blue is also considered to have a cool temperature, looking at the photo can make one readily imagine it as a chilly scene and add further to the mood.

color photography
Photo by b k

Show a riot of colors – since colors easily attract our attention, too much in one photo can quickly make a composition look cluttered and overwhelming to the eyes. However, if used strategically, it can grab hold of our interest as it creates a sense of exuberance and vigor.

color photography
Photo by Steven Gerner

The next time you take a photo, be it an abstract image that shows only pure color or a portrait, landscape scene, or other, try experimenting with how colors can be used to create a certain mood that will make your viewers connect with your photograph.

About Kristine Hojilla

Kristine is an avid amateur photographer from the tropical Philippine islands. She always tries to capture the extraordinary in mundane objects and scenes. Feel free to visit her profile here to see more of her works

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