Assignment 3 – Colour

The purpose of this assignment is to “show your command of colour in photography, being able to find and use different colours in different relationships”. Tackling this assignment in the winter months possibly wasn’t as easy as it could have been in one of the other seasons but I think, in the end, it was probably beneficial to my learning.

The exercises completed for the module have involved identifying and working with these different colour relationships:

  • Complementary Colours – colours that are opposite each other on the colour circle.
  • Similar Colours – colours near each other on the colour circle.
  • Contrasting Colours – colours that are spaced apart on the colour wheel, not directly opposite and not adjacent.

The assignment involved collecting 4 images for each of these categories and also a final category the draws from any of the above:

  • Colour Spot or Accent – a small amount of colour set against a larger colour in on of the relationships from above.

Subject matter was encouraged to vary as was the technical aspects (lighting and filters) and the situation in which the image was captured – still life vs found. Finally, the assignment requires sketches for each image showing it’s balance and movement.

Colour Harmony Through Complementary Colours

For this relationship, I set myself a personal challenge to try and capture at least one of each of the 3 colour relationships.



The major parts of this image are the blueness of the stormy sky and the orangeness of the clay in the cliff. These two major colours are approximately shown in the complementary 2:1 colour ratio suggested by J. W. Von Goethe.

Coastal Recession

Also in the image, we have to acknowledge the small amount of green grass at the top of the cliff and the reasonably large area of yellowish sand. I feel these colours contribute to unbalancing the image in a subtle but useful manner. When I encountered this scene, although I was specifically looking for the colour relationship, I also thought that I could try and tell a story of coastal recession. By using a wide angle lens, I knew it would emphasise the scale of the image as if it was recessing into the picture helping with the story.

In order to bring out the colour of the sky, whilst being able to capture the detail of the cliff, I’ve applied a graduated filter, digitally, along the top of the cliff edge.



This bird was captured in difficult lighting conditions. The sun was providing high contrast lighting from behind whilst leaving the side of the bird I wanted to capture in heavy shadow. I’ve been able to use the lighting to my advantage by being able to remove most of the colour in the background by “blowing out” the highlights. However, to deal with the shadow area, I’ve had to raise the ISO setting of the camera which has shown some digital noise in the image. To try to keep the ISO as low as possible, I was using a monopod (a tripod wouldn’t have been accepted in the environment the image was taken).


The 1:1 complementary colour ratio has clearly not been observed with this image, however, I don’t think this detracts from the image as the smaller area of colour is in an area of the image with greater importance.



These flowers have been captured in a way to minimise the background and make sure the Violet/Yellow relationship plays an important role without other colours causing a distraction. Although a small amount of green is evident, I think this helps to provide context to the image.

Complentary-3-blur Complentary-3-movement

To try and increase the interest in the picture, a shallow depth of field has been used to focus attention on the nearest flower, which is placed on the intersecting 3rd, and the other yellow areas were positioned to imply diagonal lines.

Green/Red (2)


This plant takes elements from both the previous green/red image and the violet/yellow image. The ratio of green to red is again not quite 1:1 and the composition has been chosen to minimise any distracting background colours. Like with the previous image, I don’t feel that the greater amount of green negatively impacts the image because the vocal point of the image is in red and is highlighted with the sun light catching and emphasising the red area.

Complentary-4-blur Complentary-4-movement

When considering how to display the image, I thought a square crop would work nicely because of the circular composition. However, placing the centre of the plant in the centre of the image felt unbalanced because of the red leaf coming out to the bottom right. By moving the plant just off centre, the balance in the image improves and introduces a diagonal that closely runs from corner to corner.

Colour Harmony Through Similar Colours

Warm (1)


This image captures the warm colours of a sunset. By applying a digital graduated ND filter, the small amount of blue that was left in the sky has been removed leaving only the warm tones.

Similar-1-blur Similar-1-movment

I personally like the balance in the image with the end of the Groyne nicely balancing with the sun, and, the line formed by the relection of the sunlight and the direction of the photographer going to opposite corners forming an implied triangle and helping the eye explore the image.

One area that I have found interesting with this image is that the colours are being used to represent warmth, whereas I know it was captured on a bitterly cold day. Initially, I rejected the picture as, although I liked it, it didn’t seem to have a warmth to it. However, after leaving the image for a few weeks, I came back to the image and decided that it did in fact meet the objective of capturing similar colours. I think this demonstrates the interesting relationship of the colours in the picture and personal and emotional attachments from people that could be aware of the environment the image was captured in. I’ve asked a number of family and friends if they consider this a warm or warming image. The people that were there didn’t consider it warm but acknowledged that it could be warming whereas people that weren’t there were more willing to believe it was warm.

Warm (2)

Using the skills and experience gained during the previous assignment, I wanted to make sure that any still life images showed depth and interesting lighting whilst displaying warm colours.


The scene was composed to try and reflect a warm and comforting moment. The colours shown range from a small amount of violet though the reds and oranges and into a small amount of yellow.


These colours are all helping to support scene and the intention.

Warm (3)


This still life was composed with a similar intention to the previous image but with more of a focus on the oranges and yellows that can represent warms and calm.

Similar-4-blur Similar-4-movement

Here, the key area of interest was placed on the third and diagonals used to introduce a small amount of movement.

Cool (1)


This still life was probably the hardest scene to compose. The intention was to create a very cool looking image that was supported by it’s contents and colour.


In order to achieve the coolness of the blue, I was using a torch shone through blue perspex. Unfortunately, the use of the torch was causing two problems:

  1. The light source was small making it more difficult to manage the reflections. 
  2. The shutter speed had to be extended because the light from the torch wasn’t very strong.

I’m still pleased with this image and feel it has achieved it’s intended goal but if the task was to be repeated in the future, more research could be done on how to light the scene to provide more interesting options.

Colour Contrast Through Contrasting Colour

Blue/Yellow (1)


This first image showing colour contrast demonstrates the natural contrasts that can be found in nature.


Having these strong colour contrasts is being used to try and keep the views attention so that the not overly attractive background plays less of a part in the image – although I think it is important to provide context.

It was an intentional choice to show only part of the bird on the edge of the frame to balance the large amount of yellow with the blue.

Blue/Yellow (2)


Another demonstration of strong colour contrasts in nature taken in difficult lighting conditions that again required the ISO to be raised – reducing the shutter speed or aperture further was not an option because the lens was at it’s widest and the shutter speed was as low as I thought possible to avoid a blurred image. Again, I was using a monopod and a tripod wouldn’t have been accepted.

Contrasting-2-blur Contrasting-2-movement

With this image, instead of using the strong colour to try and distract, I think it plays a role in guiding the way the image is viewed. Instinctively, the eye is drawn to the bright yellow that is strongly contrasting with it’s predominantly blue background. The small hints of yellow can then be followed along the fish to the most interesting part of the fish. Following the image in this way can help give the impression of movement.

The orange on the right of the image shouldn’t be ignored when considering the colour of the entire image but the low contrast in this area compared to the high contrast of the yellows and blues of the fish stop it distracting.



The strong contrast in this flower is again another example from nature where the natural intention could be different from the previous two images. In the previous two images, the strong contrast could be used to try and blend into highly contrasting environments whereas the flower may be using the strong contrast to try and attract insects.


The strong contrast in the image is intended to draw the views attention which is also supported by the limited depth of field.



This final example of colour contrast is something obviously not from nature.


The background for the image is mostly green which helps the other two colours stand out further as well as the red and the blue contrasting with each other.

The space around these tractors was limited but I still tried to find a position where I could use a longer focal length lens with the aim of compressing perspective and trying to make them appear closer together then they were.

Colour Accents



This image was taken at the same place as the Blue/Orange image above but it was taken just as the sun was raising and required a relatively long exposure to be able to capture the image (1.6s).

Early morning at the Naze Early morning at the Naze

With this image, I’ve used the an adjustment to white balance to emphasise the blueness of the early morning light. Had I been using a film camera, the same effect could have been achieved using filters. Phil Malpas describes, in Basics Photography: Capturing Colour, how the numerically high temperature of early morning light would need to be compensated for with the use of warming filters in order to match the expected colour temperature of the film. To replicate the use of white balance applied in this digital image, the amount of warming filtration applied would be reduced.

Looking at the image, because of this blue tint, the small spots of green contrast really appear to stand out. This helps to strengthen the foreground interest and then allows the view to explore deeper into the image.



Another bird taken in a challengingly lit environment.


The small amount of blue around the eye really command attention against the orangeness of the body.



Here, I’ve attempted to capture a small amount of movement in the fish, again at a high ISO.


Although the bottom of the image contains greens, brown, and red, there brightness and saturation levels are low so don’t contend with the strong contrast and high saturation of the small amount of orange against the predominant blue.



Finally, this image contains small spots of red on a predominately green background.

Accented-4-blur Accented-4-movement

The diagonals in the image help to strengthen the image with a very centred focal point.


Trying to search for images of colour in the winter proved to be a considerable challenge when I began this module and for quite a time I was struggling to engage with the exercise or determine what the learning points were. I discussed this in an earlier entry, mentioning how a talk by photographer Phil Malpas really started to help me appreciate the role of colour in photography and it’s importance.

Having completed the assignment, I feel my understanding of the subject has considerably increase and in the end, feel that completing the module in winter was a real blessing. Had I been able to venture out and find colour everywhere, I think I would have quickly progressed through the module and not really gained the understanding I now have. The learning experience of meeting Phil and reading his book on colour was a great help.

In some of the images, I mentioned the use of digital filters in place of real world filters. These have been used to achieve similar results and have mainly been used to manage contrast in light.

For quite a while now, I have enjoyed experimenting with infra-red photography and this module has helped me understand at a deeper level what it is I like about it. It’s quite common for a lot of digital infra-red photographs to be converted into fake colour images using the powerful digital tools we have available. A photographer that I enjoy viewing the work of and have been inspired by is Jojo Tan on Flickr. In his set of Infra Red images, it can be seen that the converted images often show duo tone images of strongly contrasting colours – red/blue, yellow/blue, orange/green.

Before completing this assignment, I contacted my tutor to see if it would be appropriate to use images of this type in the assignment. Caroline’s response was that she thought it wouldn’t be appropriate at this stage. In the end, I’m pleased this was the case because it’s encouraged me to go out and explore images I could capture in the visible light spectrum.


One thought on “Assignment 3 – Colour

  1. Pingback: Assignment 3 – Colour, Tutor Feedback | bushtography

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