Light is not constant. Not only does the quality of light and the angle of light change, but so does its color. As the day progresses, the predominant color of light shifts. In the early hours of pre-dawn, the world is covered in a veil of blue. Photographing before the sun breaks the horizon produces a blue tint in our images. As the day progresses, the light shifts. Once the sun breaks the horizon, the world is flooded with the golden colors of sunrise. This light provides a warmth that is radically different then the coolness of pre-dawn. As the sun moves across the sky, the light looses its golden hue and becomes the “white” light we associate with daylight. Once the sun reaches it zenith, the process reverses itself.
As photographers, we can use these color shifts in a number of ways.
- One fundamental use of color is how it alters the appearance of a subject. If we photograph the same subject under different light we will get different results. A lion’s fur does not look the same during sunrise as it does at noon. By returning to photograph the same subjects under different lighting conditions, it becomes possible to create radically different images. Try returning to the same subjects and photographic them in every possible lighting condition.
- Color has a powerful impact on our moods, which in turn impacts how we interpret images. Blue provides a sense of calmness. Red has energy and is associated with violence. Green is the color of nature and contains a sense of vibrancy. Deliberately including specific colors in an image gives you an opportunity to push the viewer’s emotions in a specific direction.
- People tend to find some colors more pleasing then others. The golden rays of sunrise and sunset produce some of the strongest images, in part because most people prefer warm tones over cooler tones.
- While colors can be used to compliment the subject, don’t ignore their ability to clash with a viewer’s expectations. Depicting a clearcut forest in the golden rays of sunset would be one example of how the beauty of color could be used to contrast against the rawness of the situation in such a way as to make the viewer do a double take.
Color is a powerful creative tool and we often overlook it in our daily lives. As photographers, we spend a great deal of time looking at the world around us, and it is important that we take the time to consider how the color of light impacts that scene.