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Choosing the Best Colors for Your Upcoming Photoshoot Using Color Theory and Color Harmonies

Mastering Color Theory

Color theory is an indispensable aspect of photography that helps photographers and clients create visually appealing and impactful images, but there is a simple method for choosing the best colors for your upcoming photo shoot.

Understanding color and how it affects the mood and emotions of the viewer is critical for making portraits, advertising, and other forms of photography. Whether planning an upcoming photoshoot or simply looking to understand how color works in photography, this article will help you explore the basics of color theory and its applications in photography.

A 12-axis color wheel with 7 steps of opacity, allowing for a wide range of color choices with varying levels of transparency.
"A 12-axis color wheel with 7 steps of opacity, allowing for a wide range of color choices with varying levels of transparency."

The Color Wheel

First, it's essential to understand the color wheel. A color wheel is a visual tool representing the relationships between different colors. Twelve fundamental colors make up the color wheel. The color wheel divides those colors into three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue), three secondary colors (green, orange, and purple), and six tertiary colors (red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple, and red-purple).

Four color wheels displaying the primary colors (red, blue, and yellow), secondary colors (green, orange, and purple), and tertiary colors (combinations of primary and secondary colors) in a clear and organized manner.
Four versions of triadic color harmonies.

The color wheel helps us understand the relationships between different colors, which is essential in determining which colors to use. Understanding the relationships between colors is also vital for color harmonies, which are groupings of colors that work well together.

Here are some of the most common color harmonies used in photography:

  1. Complementary Colors: We find Complementary colors opposite each other on the color wheel. For example, blue and orange are complementary colors. Complementary colors are highly contrasting and are often used to create high-impact images.

  2. Analogous Colors: We find Analogous colors next to each other on the color wheel. For example, blue, blue-green, and green are Analogous colors. Similar colors create a harmonious and calming atmosphere in photos.

  3. Triadic Colors: We find Triadic colors are evenly spaced around the color wheel. For example, red, yellow, and blue. Triadic colors create a sense of balance and stability in photos. At the most extreme saturations, these color combinations often depict superheroes, villains, and some cartoon characters.

  4. Split-Complementary Colors: Split-complementary colors combine color and the two colors on either side of its complement. For example, blue, yellow-orange, and red-orange are split-complementary colors. This color harmony creates a sense of excitement and energy in photos.

  5. Monochromatic Colors: Monochromatic colors are different shades and tints of the same color. For example, light blue, medium blue, and dark blue are monochromatic colors. Monochromatic color harmonies create a sense of calmness and serenity in photos.

Of course, there are other color harmonies beyond the commonly known ones, such as complementary, analogous, triadic, split-complementary, and monochromatic. Some examples include double complementary, tetradic, and square color schemes. These harmonies use different combinations of colors to create pleasing and harmonious color palettes for various design purposes.


In conclusion, color theory is a critical aspect of photography that can make or break the success of a photoshoot. By understanding the color wheel, its relationships between colors, and different color harmonies, photographers and clients can create visually appealing and impactful images. Whether you're looking to create a harmonious and calming atmosphere or a high-impact image, the key to success is understanding color. So why wait? Take the first step in creating stunning and memorable images by incorporating color theory into your next photoshoot!


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