I recently bought my first full frame camera, I was instantly blown away by the sharpness and incredible amount of detail. I have been looking at various photographers’ work, I love the way the Russian photographer, Anastasia Volkova  and the London based photographer, Marc Hayden  colour their images, not just getting it right in camera, but the retouching skills, how distinctive their style is, they are just admirable. Anastasia is the main reason I became very interested in photography the first place, I have been following her beautiful work at least 5 years now, she’s also the inspiration behind my camera choice. But having a great camera does not equal breathtaking images, now I gained better understanding behind the meaning of colour, I can truly appreciate their hard work put into each photograph. I hope I can achieve the same one day, develop my own unique style.
Following my passion, I decided to take some portraits of a friend for this assignment but I also included few images I took as I was walking in town for a greater variation of subjects. I asked her to bring colourful clothes so we can create different colour harmonies as required for this task, since my retouching skills are nowhere near as the artists mentioned above (I only started experimenting in Photoshop), I made all the adjustments in Lightroom, following the ratios suggested by Goethe , indicating the brightness of each colour with a number: yellow 9, orange 8, red and green 6, blue 4, violet 3.
Colour harmony through complementary colours
Complementary colours are the hues found opposite of each other on the colour wheel. For this set of images I tried to make sure that the amount of colours are the closest to the ideal proportions as well as they are equally intense. Although it seems to be a lazy choice, it wasn’t that easy, I also wanted to achieve pleasing images overall in terms of composition to avoid taking pictures for the sake of colour harmonies. I’m aware that I included other colours too such as the skin and hair tones, the green leaves in the background in some cases, I brought down the saturation and brightness a little to direct the attention to the colour pairs.
Colour harmony through similar colours
Similar colours are the ones close to each other on the colour wheel in terms of cool and warm range. I swapped the last photo in this set to a multiple exposure image of a british tennis player, Liam Broady after looking at the blue-green comparison, I realised I already shot the “opposite” and this is way more interesting than another green scene including the sky. I really like orange and red together, again I pulled the greens back a little the make these colours pop. The next image perhaps not that obvious yellow, I tried to compare the skin next to the green leaves which I think worked well.
Colour contrast through contrasting colours
Contrasting colours are spaced in between, they aren’t close to each other, nor on the opposite sides on the colour wheel. My favorite is green an orange together, I love the way the sun peeking through the leaves painting them gold, the yellow top works well with the green leaves, it doesn’t feel disharmonious at all. I like the splash of yellow with a greater amount of red together; although green is twice as bright as violet, adding a bit of brightness and saturation to the violet here balances the proportions. In spite of the fact that red (6) is brighter than blue (4), by increasing the brightness and saturation of the blue and decreasing a little of the red, the ideal balance between the two colours seem to be restored.
The first time I came across colour accent in photography when I was looking at black-and-white images with a splash of colour, only a small detail left out of the conversion. For this set of images I needed to find similar colour relationships as mentioned above and frame them to create this effect without black-and-white conversion. For the first image I stepped pretty far away from my friend, trying to exaggerate the background, like she’s lost in the woods and only can be noticed by her red top. The second photo features a little blue, small amount of cool in contrast with warm colours, also I liked the way the leaves are creating a natural frame around the door. The third photograph features red against green again in a different way, ideally I would have captured this much more far away making the bench look tiny, but I had no space, nor wider lens. The last one is red and green in equal amounts but this time only very little part of the image, since most of my image backgrounds are solid colours, I found this to be a good example putting this colour pair against white, grey and black.
As I was researching for more in terms of retouching portraits just by changing colour, I came across this brilliant article featuring a high end retoucher, Natalia Taffarel , how she’s editing and correcting images with different hues, and a colour harmony tool  to help determining the desired colours. This is beyond amazing!
What did I learn from this part of the course? I’m very much aware of harmonising colours now, I can see them just looking through my window and able to find them instead of intentional arrangements and I’m looking forward to put this knowledge into retouching like Natalia does. Completing this assignment was a lot harder than I anticipated but it also feels incredibly rewarding, knowing this will definitely make me a better photographer.
 Michael Freeman – The photographer’s eye – Page 121.
Feedback and reflection
Please find my tutor’s report here.
I kind of fallen into the trap of worrying about colour ratios too much, but I began to understand the importance of creating a set of images that work well separately as well as a set, creating a scene which is already interesting and colour relationships will only strengthen the composition as oppose to letting colours to take control. I was looking for inspiration and came across David LaChapelle’s work, as he’s known for his unique, hyper-realistic aesthetic and colourful imaginary. I was blown away, could not stop looking at the images, trying to understand what’s going on, what is the message what he’s trying to say and I realise how boring my images are and where I’ve gone wrong. “Make love not walls” has a clear message, feels like there isn’t much going on but there is with the colourful tank, the naked man facing towards it in the heart shaped light punched in the wall and the sun comes through. I was wondering of the colour choice of the tank, why these colours and why so many in a particular shape as well, I would like to know what he was thinking when he composed this image. Clearly I should have done this before the assignment, sadly I was rushed to finish it due to work commitments which I am trying to resolve as I have been working most days, only getting couple days off in a month, not having a life nor much time to spend on the course which is very frustrating.