Master Color and Emotion in Photography | Steve Weinrebe | Skillshare

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Master Color and Emotion in Photography

teacher avatar Steve Weinrebe, Photographer, Author, Instructor

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Color, Emotion, and Depth in Photography

    • 2. Color in Nature and In Emotions

    • 3. How Color Temperature Impacts the Viewer

    • 4. Color Opposites

    • 5. Color Wheel

    • 6. Hue, Saturation, and Brightness

    • 7. Emotional Color Themes

    • 8. Complimentary Colors and Hue Contrast

    • 9. Saturation and Brightness Contrast

    • 10. Color Contrast in Photography

    • 11. Color and High Fequency Images

    • 12. Complimentary Colors in Images

    • 13. Color Toned Black & White and Review

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About This Class

Updated with 4 new video lectures, and Color Wheel graphic.

Learn how to use color to create powerful photographs. Master the color theory behind color and emotion, and what impacts the viewer. Use color in photography to your advantage, whether while you are shooting, or during post production in Photoshop or Lightroom.

With demonstrations, hands-on projects, and sample files on color, color theory, and what impacts the viewer in photography, become confident in how you choose and photograph your subjects - whether portrait, landscape, nature, lifestyle, fashion, or travel photography.

In these lessons you will learn:

  • How controlling Color can add emotion and depth to your photography
  • How color temperature creates an emotional response to images
  • About Complimentary Colors and Hue Contrast in images
  • About Saturation and Brightness Contrast in images
  • About Color Contrast in Photography
  • How to use Color in High Frequency Images
  • How to shoot for complimentary colors in your photography
  • How color toning can affect Black and White photographs

Use the hands-on projects to reinforce your knowledge about color in photography. Then grab your camera and start putting your mastery of color and emotion to work.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Steve Weinrebe

Photographer, Author, Instructor


Steve has been teaching photography for over 30 years, drawing on his professional background as a widely published advertising, corporate, and editorial photographer. Author of 2 books on photography and Adobe Photoshop, Steve loves demystifying the art of photography for enthusiastic students. Steve has won a Videographer Award for video-based training, and he has taught photography and digital graphics at the Maine Media Workshops and the University of the Arts (Philadelphia). When not teaching Steve can be found photographing the coastline of New Jersey.


Steve Weinrebe
Produced Photoshop's "Photographic Toning" presets
Author, Cengage Learning, "Irreverent Photo Tools for Digital Photographers"
Author, Cengage Learning, "Adobe Photoshop & the Art of Ph... See full profile

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1. Color, Emotion, and Depth in Photography: Let's start talking about color, and we're going to discuss color temperature, something I'm sure you may have heard off. We're also going to talk about color and emotion, something I'm sure you're not unfamiliar with. Colors can vote very strong emotions, especially in images. We're also going to take a peek at camera. Wrong will use camera, just as a very simple color tool to start will come back to camera raw later on. So let's get started. And first of all, I'd like to talk about why we might want to. 10 something tinting an image can completely change the emotional content and expression of the image to the viewer, whether it's color or black and white colors evoke very strong emotions. So when you go to the movies and you see a movie that's very yellow, we warm color, and I'll talk more about that in a minute. That evokes a romantic mood or romantic feeling so that color might be used in a romance movie. Colors can have very strong impact on the viewer now. I have in the past, done on a fair amount of color toning, and this is an image that I applied c p a toner to and the coloration isn't necessarily here to a affected emotion. But what it does do is give something beyond just the grayscale image in this case, because you can start to have a dialogue about the color composition or the tonal composition of the in the coloration versus just the actual lines and forms in the picture , which is really all you have in a grayscale image. Anyway, just to give an idea of why we tent images and again images have very strong emotions, and that's why you're here. You're going to apply some of these techniques to your own images. 2. Color in Nature and In Emotions: Let's talk a little bit about color temperature, so I'm going to first take this blank document. You do this with any image in photo shop. It's sort of a hidden secret trick and Photoshopped you may be aware of. And we're going to turn this image into an indexed color image, which just reduces the image to a subset of colors. And then I'm going to go to this image mode menu again, and I'm going to choose color table and in the color table dialog. We see the subset of colors from this image, which really doesn't have any colors in it, but will be using this later on. I'm going to go to this item from this drop down list called Black Body, and this shows us the color spectrum for what's called black body radiation. In other words, this is a piece of the colors that a piece of iron would go through as it's being heated up . And so we started out where the iron is stone cold, and in that case it's black. And as the iron heats up, it gets hotter and hotter and turns red and as it goes, gets hotter and hotter. It goes through the orange part of the spectrum into the yellow part of the spectrum and then gets white hot and also noticed those Hughes. Those colors get lighter and lighter as they go as well. Bear in mind, this is going from the reds to the oranges to the yellows as it gets hotter. Let's look at the spectrum in the spectrum emotionally. We tend to think of colors as they go through the reds and the oranges and the yellows, and then up across this part of the spectrum as being cooler. So there's actually a flip around in the way we think about colors psychologically, as compared to the way colors actually work in nature and color temperature. But that's OK because we're talking about colors and emotions, and in the end, that's what we're dealing with when we're tenting and toning images 3. How Color Temperature Impacts the Viewer: Let's see that in practice. I'm going to go to bridge and I'm going to open up this raw file into camera, raw and in camera raw. We have a white balance section here in the upper right with a temperature and 1/10 slider . Now we see this image here, a Z you could see it said shot, and I could also go to daylight and you'll see, is not much for change their slight change. But this is shot in midday or actually, probably a little bit late afternoon. You could tell by the shadows this was on a June day, and the light is a mix of skylight, which is blue, and sunlight, which is warmer color hotter. Well, it's just think of it in terms of yellow ER, and so that mix really combines to create our classic daylight, 5000 degrees Kelvin. Or that ranged 10,500 degrees kelvin that we look on as being neutral late, and that doesn't evoke any particular emotion. When you're looking at an image that is just dead on neutral night, it's the content of the image might evoke emotion, but the lighting itself doesn't because it's simply midday. It's neutral. There's nothing in there that would really evoke a strong response from the viewer. Now I'm going to go to the temperature slider, and I'm going to drag the temperature slider to the left towards the blue end. And as they get towards the blue end, the emotion of the image instantly becomes colder. It evokes night. You get a feeling of nighttime and coolness. Worse. If I dragged out slider to the right, you instantly get a feeling of warmth, and this could be sunrise or sunset. It evokes and bromance and love and affection and all those emotions that we tend to associate with these colors that we call warmer colors on this yellow end. Now I'm going to reset that and let's talk about tent. When I dragged a tent slider to the left, we get to the green end, and that really just sort of evokes mold. And if I go to the other end of the slider here to the magenta and that evokes sort of apocalyptic weather, maybe there's a tornado watch, which might make you want to run for cover. Some weather's on the way, so these colors evoke also an emotion, but they could be flipped around. You could say Well, the green and the magenta colors could also evoke cotton candy and a summer day at an amusement park or a circus. We see these colors in in neon and circuses and in Sign ege, they are fun and lively colors that evokes a very different emotional response of depending on the image. These reply to you might think in terms of apocalyptic weather. But if it were applied to a circus image, you might think in terms of well, this is the neon glow of the lights on the Ferris wheel in very different feeling. More of a fun feeling, so colors can evoke very strong response in the viewer. And depending on the coloration that you give two images, you have that control. You have that power to create that at response in your viewers and get their response to draw the viewers attention into your images and give them a feeling a rewarding feeling as they view your images, not just from the content of the image, but the content in the coloration combined to create a synergy where the whole becomes greater, then the sum of its parts 4. Color Opposites: way. No, a little bit about color and emotions. Let's talk about color themes and color harmonies and where we can find those right within the photo shop interface. We're going to discuss the color picker and swatches very powerful tools, which, in combination with our ability to sample colors and photoshopped well, give us the power to create our own color themes in color harmonies, which we can then apply to images. Let's go to photo shop, and I'll show you where you can find us in the window menu. If you drag down to extensions, you'll see this item. Adobe color themes. If you have an earlier version of photo shop, this is called cooler kul ER, and if you don't see anything there, go to the website adobe dot color dot com, and that will bring you to the same Cannell which we see here. I'm going to drag this out front and center, and this is the adobe color theme panel in which we see a representation of the color wheel , and we have the ability to look at different types of color themes, basically pulling different flavors of color themes that give us groups of harmonies, color harmonies that are very appealing to the eye going to goto analogous, and here we see a primary colors and colors that air closely associated with it. You could even spread out from there and create your own color themes to pick your own primary color. I'm going to go to complementary because that's one will find extremely useful, especially in split, toning and split Tony. Even color images where you have colors that are opposites on the color wheel. That creates something called hue. Contrast, where you have a contrast of Hughes extreme opposites on the color wheel. And think of that in combination with brightness. Contrast, and you can create some very powerful effects in images. I'm going to bring up another image. We just open up this image here. That was a grayscale image, and you can see that this is to color opposites a blue tent in the shadows and a warmer yellow tent in the highlights. Then that creates hue contrast, which is very attractive in an image and go to a different image. This is a color image, and we see again, color opposites are colors that are complementary and opposites on the color wheel, blue and yellow. But to the I that create a wonderful contrast of colors, and so that really works, whereas blue against blue or yellow against yellow wouldn't have that great deal of hue, contrast and jump out or express itself as well to the eyes. 5. Color Wheel: Let's go back to women when it close, knows images and let's go back to bridge for a moment and open up this image, which is a color wheel, and this representation of the color wheel shows you the colors. The RGB color wheel, which has red at the top at zero degrees. And we can go 360 degrees around the color wheel and opposites on the color wheel cancel each other out. So that's one major feature of the color wheel. The idea of colors in nature cancelling each other out. If you add red, you're by definition cancelling out green or teal color. If you add magenta, they're by definition, cancelling out green altogether. And in fact, if I go to this other image here, this green swatch I created and I have a color gel here magenta color gel you can see that's magenta, and I'm going to hold that over the green and you'll see that we'll cancel the green out when you hold magenta over green, green color for and the attempted agreeing that cancels the green out and you get a neutral color. So get out of the way kind of a noisy still right there. The idea of colors cancelling each other out on the color wheel will really help us create colors that are very appealing to the eye by virtue of having hue contrast opposites on the color wheel. 6. Hue, Saturation, and Brightness: Let's talk about where we'll find these colors in Photoshop and in the bottom of the toolbar. We have wonderful item here called the foreground color Swatch. We actually have a foreground and background colors watch, but if you click on either one, you'll pop open this tool called the color Picker. The color picker is a panel that gives us the ability to choose a color and Photoshopped, which weaken, then add to our swatches panel. So the color picker. If we pick any color in here we can choose. Add two swatches. So I just picked this red color click. Add to swatches. I can give that color name. I call in my red click. OK, and there's that red color added to the swatches. And let me just worry and you to the color picker. We have the hue slider on the right hand side, and that is simply the color wheel splayed out. If you split the color wheel down along the red and spread it out, you're going to end up with this Hugh slider so you could see this begins and ends and red , and then we go around the color wheel. So if I drag that slider, you'll see this you field go from zero degrees up to 359 degrees and then back down a zero . So there's our 360 degrees around the color wheel, Then this cube on the left. This box on the left shows us the saturation of the color left to right and brightness bottom to top. So when you take all the saturation out of any color, you'll always be left with a great own. No matter what your hue is. When you take all the saturation out, you have a great tone. And when you start peeking that saturation back in, you get Mawr and Mawr that Hugh we see more and more that color color being a combination of the hue and the saturation, and then from bottom to top, we have brightness anywhere along the bottom is going to be black, and you get a brighter and brighter version of the color as you move up in that area. And then if you drag off the upper left, you get white so white would be a zero saturation and 100% brightness doesn't matter what your hue is. But anyway, that's with how the color picker works. You could also enter in specific RGB values, which will be getting, too. We'll talk about color numbers later on, but for now we're talking about the hue and the hue around the color wheel, and then the saturation and the brightness that you in our ability to add that to our swatches. 7. Emotional Color Themes: Also, if you take a peek again at that color theme panel, we could pick a color theme in there and there's a button right? But will the color wheel that we can click to add those colors to our swatches so I'll just click that button and the colors in this color theme get added to our swatches. Now this color theme panel is very interesting educational value because we click on the explore menu and then in here we will search for the word happy and let's see what we get and we see some happy color themes so you can see there's lots of happy color themes, ways that you can make somebody feel happy of. Vote the emotion of happiness using colors. And these are just samples. Here in the color theme panel, I'm going to choose sad and let's see what we come up with with sad and will, I bet, come up with their some sad colors that make you want to cry. Some are very monotone ALS. I'm a very dark, de saturated again, the ability of colors to evoke emotions 8. Complimentary Colors and Hue Contrast: Let's expand in our discussion about color and talk about luminosity or brightness contrast , which are probably familiar with as well as hue and saturation contrast, two kinds of contrast that can also very powerfully affect an image. And those kinds of contrast, brightness and especially hue and different hues in an image and hue contrast can evoke different responses in the viewer. So let's take a look at these different kinds of contrast and how Photoshopped treats them in images. In Photoshopped, Let's take another look at the color wheel, and here we have the color themes panel and were sent a complementary colors, and we see that colors opposite each other on the color wheel are considered complementary colors. Now think about it when you're looking at the visual spectrum here, colors that are entirely opposite on the visual spectrum have a lot of hue. Contrast hue. Contrast is when you're working with colors and coloration and an image that are opposites on the visual spectrum on the color wheel and or close to opposite, and you compare that to analogous colors. Analogous colors are colors that are close to each other in the color wheel, so we see analogous colors like this range from orange to yellow are very similar to each other. There's not a great deal of hue contrast, but if we look at complementary colors, we do get a great deal of hue. Contrast with complementary colors and complementary colors are very appealing in images because you do get that hue. Contrast that stretching out of colors in an image just like a stretching out of tones in brightness contrast and that hue contrast is very appealing to the viewer. But different amounts and kinds of hue contrast different hues can indefinitely evoke different responses in the viewer, and also we have to talk about saturation contrast because he might have different hues. The different amounts of saturation can also affect the viewer. 9. Saturation and Brightness Contrast: Let's take a look at this test image that I created that is simply a green rectangle on one side and red rectangle on the other, and we see a great deal of hue contrast. In other words, these colors are opposites on the color wheel. Now they're not entirely appealing to look out together because we tend to think of these colors as emergency colors and exit sign or the lights on the top of an emergency vehicle. They're designed to not necessarily alarm the viewer, but certainly distractive you were. Get the viewers attention. But these colors, with this amount of saturation and brightness, could distract the viewer from the content of an image. I'm going to contrast that with these colors, which also have a great deal of hue contrast. We have blue and yellow, but they're much more appealing to the viewer. Blue and yellow evoke blue sky, yellow sunlight, morning afternoon, blue shade, open shade, these air colors that we're used to seeing in nature. Albeit you might see the green grass in an image that would evoke agreeing. But having green and a strong read together that would be kind of unnatural. B. I isn't used to seeing that, so that's a little more alarming. Let's play around, though, with the saturation contrast and the brightness contrast of these color. So I'm going to go into the green and lower the brightness of the green and instantly that becomes a little more palatable to the viewer, a little easier to look at. Let me instead reduce the saturation of the green, and so we have the same brightness. But let's less saturation and again that is easier on the eye to view. Now, let's do that with the Reds. If I drop the rightness of the Reds, we get again an easier image to view. If I change the saturation of the reds again, we get an easier image to view. So think about dropping the brightness is having a color tinted into the shadows and dropping the saturation might be more like having your color tinted into the highlights. Either way, these colors are going to be a little easier on the eye. Let me go to the blue and the yellow and do the same thing, and I'll just work with the blue if I drop the brightness value of the blue again. That's a little easier on the eyes and change that saturation. And again, that also is easier on the eye. So playing around with not only hue, contrast but saturation and brightness, contrast and powerful e affect the image. And when we're coloring images, regardless of whether you photographed the image with specific colors to get a color response from the viewer, you can change that response and you can change the appeal, The move. The effect of an image by altering the colors in an image as well as thedc. You contrast the saturation contrast in the brightness contrast off those colors. 10. Color Contrast in Photography: Let's take a look at some actual images, and this is an image that has a lot of brightness contrast. But it does not have much hue, contrast or saturation contrast at all. So we see varying amounts of brightness, but pretty much all of the same que in the same saturation. Let's compare that to this image, which we already took a look at, and this image has a great deal of color contrast. We see opposites in the color wheel to blues and the yellows, and that's very appealing because that brings out a great deal of contrast in an image that doesn't have a lot of brightness. Contrast. There isn't a great differentiation. In the brightness of these colors were the overall brightness in the image. This is shot and open shades, not direct sunlight. There aren't deep shadows, but the colors evoke a great deal of contrasts, and I often tell students when we're in a photo workshop that if you're taking pictures on a gray day and you don't have the benefit of brightness, contrast from extreme brightness values between Sun Lane shadow work with color, contrast or hue contrast in this case because we have great differentiation and separation of the elements in the image, from the blues to the yellows. Let's play around with the colors here a little bit. I'm going to add a hue saturation adjustment and go into the blues, and I'm going toe. Lighten up the blues and we see that when we have differentiation of hues but also introduced brightness contrast in other words, a muted or darker yellow in a very light blue. It's not quite as appealing to the eye. Let me reset that and go into the yellows and do the same thing when I lighten up the yellows. This isn't quite as appealing because we have it kind of an extreme between the light wall and the dark blue, and it's a little harder for the eye to adjust going back and forth between the two. Not that this is necessarily a terrible interpretation of this image, but in working with your balance and I call it an equilibrium and working with the equilibrium of the Hughes and the saturation of the Hughes and the colors, you want to be easy on the eye of the viewer. You want an easy transition going from one color to the other. So instead of adding brightness to a color, you might consider adding saturation or taking out saturation if you add brightness in order not to sort of hit the viewer over the head with those colors. 11. Color and High Fequency Images: Let's take a look at a different image. This image has color opposites on the color wheel, green and red, Knight said. Those could be difficulty view in an image, but they take up a very small portion of this image we have. As a photographer, friend of mine used to say, Just a little hit of red and a little hit of red can add a lot to an image just for color and interest in an image. The eye sees it without it really jumping out. But that red balances out the green by virtue of being opposites in the color. Wheeling introduces that amount of hue contrast between the green and the red that gives a full sort of visual spectrum to the image. In fact, we have the red orange, the sort of in between que in the rust here. So we have the red to the orange and then coming, circling around on the color wheel to the green. And that makes up for the very muted, almost grayscale background. I'd also like to differentiate this discussion about hue and brightness. Contrast from high and low frequency images. Take away the high frequency detail here high frequency, meaning lots of fine detail and compare that to this image, which hats and lots of low frequency portions, or overall, is a very low frequency image, meaning there isn't a lot of very fine structural detail in the image that can also impact an image. But I'd like to confine the discussion to the color contrast or a hue and saturation contrast and the brightness contrast. 12. Complimentary Colors in Images: Let's also look at this image where we see the same color opposites that we've talked about blue and yellow, and they work very well in making this not a very monotone Elim Ege. If you took away the yellow and just worked with the muted wood texture and whites and blues, this would tend to feel like a kind of monitor tonal image. But as soon as you add in the yellow that opposite on the color wheel, you get a much more interesting image. And if I add a little saturation into those yellows and even dark and I'm a tiny bit, then we get even a better equilibrium between the blue and the yellow, because they're similar and Hugh similar and saturation and tone ality. So the sign painter knew what he or she was doing because they used these opposites in the color, will introduce this hue contrast into this sign, and that works very well for the viewer in attracting the viewer and making the sign appealing. Albeit the sign could use a recode of pain, of course, but we're looking at something that is fun. It's says something about the content, the ice cream is cold, so we have that cool emotional response from the blue color. And the yellow doesn't really alarmists. Whereas the dollars were in red. That might make us thank you. That's a lot of money. 13. Color Toned Black & White and Review: Let's take a look at this image, which is gray scale in this grayscale image that was tinted with a blue yellow tent. So we have a blue in the shadows and a young Jewish tent in the highlights. If I go into the yellows and I add a great deal of saturation to the yellows, in other words, much more than we see in the blues. Then the image loses its equilibrium and loses the balance between the faded tint of the blues in the shadows, not originally previous faded tent of yellows in the highlights, and it just doesn't look as appealing. And if I take that to an extreme, you can see that it looks obviously surreal. You wouldn't want to over saturate the image, but even if I pull that back a little bit, we lose that equilibrium. Whereas if I turned that off and we have that yellow, you think instantly have that Ah, feeling that we it's easier on the eye. You just need a little bit of yellow balancing out that little bit of blue hue. Contrast opposites on the color wheel that similar saturation is, and they work very well. We've talked about luminess or brightness contrast and hue and saturation contrast luminess air brightness, contrast or extreme differences of lights and darks in an image hue contrast would be color opposites on the color wheel or near opposites. Colors that are very far from each other, as opposed to colors that are close to each other in the color wheel, which wouldn't have a lot of hue. Contrast saturation. Contrast would be colors that are different in saturation. So if you have one color an image that is greatly saturated, another color that isn't very saturated, you have a great deal of saturation contrast. Any of these kinds of contrast can work for you or against you, and you have to be careful. It may depend on the colors they're using, where they are in your image or how much of those colors are in your image, and they could evoke different responses in your viewers. If you have a lot of hue, contrast and saturation in your image, as well as brightness, contrast, you could have a very edgy image that would evoke a very edgy response in your viewer, whereas if you have cues that are similar and introduced saturation contrast or Hughes that are opposites on the color will have a great deal of hue contrast. But reduced in saturation contrast, You can end up with an image that is very romantic or evokes a very soothing response in the viewer.