Whenever I look at #streetphotography on Instagram or anywhere else, the images that impress me the most are almost always in colour.
I’ll put that down to two things.
The first is the immediate visual impact colour has. When looking at a photograph, the colour is the first thing we notice. We pay attention to it before light, before composition, and before any story being told by the image.
The second – and this is perhaps more of a personal preference to me – is the extra level of difficulty colour adds to making a great photograph.
Of course, great monochrome shots need attention paying to shapes, shadows, silhouettes etc. I just think using colour well adds one more thing to think about, which makes it more impressive when people get it right.
So with colour street photography impressing me the most in the work of others, trying to improve my own was an obvious next step as I try to get better as a photographer.
And that’s where this Captivating Color eBook, written by Mitchell Kanashkevich, comes in.
I read through it and took note of some tips, tricks, and techniques. I then went out and practised them.
This review is me telling you how that went, and what I thought of the book overall.
The main theme of the Captivating Color eBook
The main theme of the Captivating Color eBook is to get you thinking about colour; to get you using colour, rather than simply shooting in colour.
It begins by introducing some background knowledge on why colour is so important in our photography, and goes on to give you some ways you can use it to make your work better.
While most photographers learn about light and composition, colour is often not given the respect it deserves.
Indeed, sometimes the decision of whether to shoot in colour or in monochrome is as far as many people think about it.
However, as colour has a more immediate and potentially bigger impact on our emotions when looking at a photograph, this is counter-intuitive to those who want to make great photographs.
Colour is often used incidentally, unintentionally, or noticed after the image has been taken.
To make great colour street photographs, we need to be deliberate in our use of it. Too few people are.
However, this is all great news for you and me.
Because if nobody else is really thinking too much about colour when shooting, it shouldn’t take too much practice for our colour street photography to stand out as good work.
Putting the Captivating Color theories into practice
After explaining why colour is so important for our photography, the Captivating Color eBook gives a few examples of how to use it well.
Informative descriptions are paired with the author’s own photographs to give you plenty of new ways to not just include colour in your photography, but to actually use it.
The ones I practised in particular were:
- remembering that less is more
- having one standout colour
- using the emotions of colour
- breaking patterns of colour
Reading advice is all well and good but we do need to actually practise if we’re to improve.
I thought the best way to practise what Captivating Color suggested was to go out and practise only what it suggested.
To do this, I took a series of photographs without worrying too much about other things like light and composition, or even making photographs that were anything special overall.
All that mattered was practising the colour photography techniques suggested in the eBook.
This would hopefully lodge those in my subconscious (alongside some existing knowledge of light and certain composition rules) for whenever I shoot in future.
In order of difficulty, here are the suggestions I practised and the photographs I got by trying them.
Remembering that less is more
This was the easiest of the techniques I tried for using colour in my photography, because finding a scene with few colours was a relatively easy task.
The idea is simple; the fewer colours you include in your photograph, the stronger its visual impact can be.
There are fewer visual obstructions to the story you’re trying to tell, and less confusion for the brain to unpack. The result is often a more immediately impacting photograph.
My examples below are an image cut almost into a green half and grey half, a lady wearing the same colour clothes as the background, and a scene with pretty much only black, white, and skin tones.
Having one standout colour
Another technique that wasn’t too tricky was finding one standout colour to use in an otherwise minimally-coloured photograph. It was similar to the previous one, but with a little waiting needed for the right subject to enter the scene.
This technique will bring attention to whatever it is that’s standing out, but it can also be used to change the mood of the image as a whole.
Below are a few images I got while aiming for one standout colour.
The lady’s orange t-shirt breaks up the green of the rest of the scene, with the fact it says brilliant green on it adding a little extra something too.
The man’s red t-shirt kind of stands out against the drab wall (while matching the fire hydrant), and the yellow car adds some life in amongst another mostly flatly-coloured street scene (while matching the cones).
Using the emotions of colour
Using the emotions a colour stirs up to tell a story in our street photography was the next technique, which was a step up in difficulty for me.
It’s a simple concept with some simple examples; red equals danger, green equals nature, blue equals water etc.
However, finding good examples of them in the streets was a little trickier. Still, my attempts are below.
The story I get from the first photograph is one of life and beauty carrying on no matter what happens in the world. As a colour street photograph, I think the lady’s (night)dress and shoes matching the half-demolished building help with the emotion. It feels almost dystopian, to me.
The second photograph caught my eye with the red tabard and basket of the lady chopping spicy chillies, while the yellow and blue equipment of the other lady match the green of her vegetables.
I told you this one was trickier.
Hopefully the emotion of the final image is easier to interpret. A man presumably going to an office job in a scene almost completely grey.
Breaking patterns of colour
This was without doubt the hardest technique of the four I tried from the Captivating Color eBook.
The idea is that patterns can become like a solid block of colour when the composition of a photograph allows, and breaking them with a different colour can then lead to good visual impact.
Again, finding examples of patterns of colour was the hardest thing for me. Below is what I came up with.
The first image works as it does because the lady is all in black, giving a solid colour to break up the pattern. Had she been wearing patterns herself, she would have merged more into the striped background.
The yellow bicycle gives a solid, bright contrast against the black and white behind it. It’s not a great photograph. As I said, practising the suggestions was all I wanted to do.
I can worry about making better photographs later, once they’re internalised.
What I took from Captivating Color
The Captivating Color eBook has certainly helped me to understand colour photography more, which will help me to keep improving my colour street photography.
The photographs here aren’t me saying I’ve finished learning. They’re actually the start of me trying to get better.
There are some composition rules and ways to use light that I find myself doing without realising or thinking about now.
By continuing to practise what I’ve picked up from this eBook, I’ll eventually be producing better colour photography without thinking too.
For you to improve your colour photography too, you need to start thinking about using colour as opposed to just shooting in colour.
With sections on using light to work with colour and some post-processing techniques that complement everything outlined above too, the Captivating Color eBook can definitely help you to do this.
Ordering your copy of Captivating Color
The Captivating Color photography eBook is available for instant download from Digital Photography School and is covered by a 60-day money back guarantee.
It gives actionable tips with all the information and visual examples you need to try to them yourself, and can easily be taken with you on any holiday or photography trip.
I took a lot from it, and will certainly be referring back to it before I next travel.
To get your copy today, go to the Captivating Color eBook page on Digital Photography School via that link or the image below and follow the simple purchasing instructions for an instant download.
It’s a highly cost-effective and convenient way to improve your travel photography, widen your skill set, and come back from your next trip with photographs you’ll be proud to show your friends and family.
Captivating Color is just one of many photography eBooks available from Digital Photography School.
From landscape to portrait, colour to black and white, and gear to post-processing, there’s likely to be an eBook for whatever aspect of your photography you’re most looking to improve.
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