June 2011 Flickr Group Critique

This month we look at the emotional and powerful element of color in photography.

This month we look at the emotional and powerful element of color in photography.

I thought that it might be interesting this month to examine the powerful element of color in photography. So I’ve chosen some images for our discussion this month that rely heavily upon color for their success.

A BIT OF HISTORY

This may seem amazing to consider now, but I remember vividly when our staff of over 20 newspaper photographers first were confronted with having to shoot color on a regular basis. It was 1987 and we had shot only the occasional color assignment: it was a special-order event that would warrant color in the paper, and the paper was very, very bad at reproducing it! This all changed when a new color press was purchased and installed. Then color was expected on all of the section fronts, and we needed to learn how to shoot it, and fast.

When you’ve spent your photographic life learning to translate the world into interesting and compelling shade of gray, adding the element of color to the equation can be a bit intimidating. But we slowly got the hang of this new world order. Now of course, color is the norm and black and white is the art form. Funny how the number of really great photographs hasn’t changed at all though!

THE CLASSIC COLOR WHEEL

A classic color wheel. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel tend to have the greatest contrast and can seem to vibrate when placed next to each other.

A classic color wheel. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel tend to have the greatest contrast and can seem to vibrate when placed next to each other.

I think that it’s very helpful to have a bit of understanding about the classic color wheel and how it explains color and how we experience it. First developed by Sir Isaac Newton in the 1600s, the color wheel is an explanation of how we perceive the world.

Colors opposite each other tend to vibrate when placed next to each other in a composition. This will provide your image with contrast and a sense of vibrance. (We’ll see this in a moment in some of the images.) Anyway, enough theory! Let’s look at some photographs.

‘Descend,’ by Ana Matos.

'Descend,' by Ana Matos. http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiuinha/5887476686/in/photostream

'Descend,' by Ana Matos. http://www.flickr.com/photos/fiuinha/5887476686/in/photostream

Color is such an important element in this photograph, isn’t it? The blue gives me a feeling of cold, and also a vaguely medical feel. Maybe it’s from all of the hospital dramas on television, but blue has become synonymous with that type of show. Is this a subway escalator, of something else, Ana? I really like your use of the vanishing point here.

‘Prognosis Negative,’ by C.J. Schmit.

'Prognosis Negative,' by C.J. Schmidt. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjschmit/5828116673/in/photostream

'Prognosis Negative,' by C.J. Schmit. http://www.flickr.com/photos/cjschmit/5828116673/in/photostream

This is a strange and funny image to me…C.J., is that a dog wearing the gas mask? Judging from the look of the eyes, I think it might be. But I chose the image because of the way the use of the green tones in the post processing creates a feeling of sick, queasy unease: perfect for a gas mask photograph.

‘Red Three,’ by Greg Williams.

'Red Three,' by Greg Williams. http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/5850650716/in/pool-thediscerningphotographer#/photos/22077805@N07/5850650716/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'Red Three,' by Greg Williams. http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/5850650716/in/pool-thediscerningphotographer#/photos/22077805@N07/5850650716/in/pool-1182517@N23/

Now here’s a powerful, simple image, all about the color: black and red and nothing else. Black and red are such powerful, emotional colors when used together, aren’t they? My only criticism of this image is that I don’t find the composition compelling…might there have been a better image to be had at this production?

‘River of Gold,’ by Joe Chan.

'River of Gold,' by Joe Chan. http://www.flickr.com/photos/52423276@N07/5844202527/in/pool-thediscerningphotographer#/photos/52423276@N07/5844202527/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'River of Gold,' by Joe Chan. http://www.flickr.com/photos/52423276@N07/5844202527/in/pool-thediscerningphotographer#/photos/52423276@N07/5844202527/in/pool-1182517@N23/

Here’s a great example of the color wheel at work: notice how the orange tones in the foreground are almost directly opposite the violet tones (at the top of the image) on the color wheel. Almost no other color would have been as compelling when placed next to the gold. These are considered complementary colors in color theory.

‘Music in His Bones,’ by KBT Images.

'Music in His Bones,' by KBT Images. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ukphotoart/5858052021/in/pool-thediscerningphotographer#/photos/ukphotoart/5858052021/in/pool-1182517@N23/

'Music in His Bones,' by KBT Images. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ukphotoart/5858052021/in/pool-thediscerningphotographer#/photos/ukphotoart/5858052021/in/pool-1182517@N23/

This nice image by KBT illustrates another color wheel point: the blues and violets that dominate this image are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. This creates a different type of color relationship which in this case seems to increase my sense of saturation and color intensity overall. Colors next to each other on the color wheel are analogous colors.

‘TullY’s Corporate,’ by Preconscious Eye.

'TullY's Corporate,' by Preconscious Eye. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unconscioustrees/5886214130/in/photostream/

'TullY's Corporate,' by Preconscious Eye. http://www.flickr.com/photos/unconscioustrees/5886214130/in/photostream/

Putting aside the question of HDR for this discussion, look at how our color theory is being applied in this image: the reds and red-oranges are analogous colors, while the green structure is complimentary. So we have an explosion of muted color in this image, don’t we?

‘Untitled,’ by Tilak Thapa.

'Untitled,' by Tilak Thapa. http://www.flickr.com/photos/tilakthapa/5816868486/in/photostream

'Untitled,' by Tilak Thapa. http://www.flickr.com/photos/tilakthapa/5816868486/in/photostream

This one is straightforward, isn’t it? Red and green, opposite colors on the wheel, complimentary to each other. Great contrast and punch happens when these are paired up and we see it here.

‘Wingtips,’ by John Nefastis.

'Wingtips,' by John Nefastis. http://www.flickr.com/photos/maxwellsdemon/5886310041/in/photostream

'Wingtips,' by John Nefastis. http://www.flickr.com/photos/maxwellsdemon/5886310041/in/photostream

Finally, to finish out this group, a monotone image! Notice how this image works precisely because there is no color intruding upon the composition! Beautiful and suble, it’s all about the graphic shape of the wing juxtaposed against the two strong horizontal tones in the distance. A brilliant, golden sunset, while pretty, would have diminished the strong graphic nature of this photograph, wouldn’t it?

So there are my picks for June! Let me know what you think about this set, and any thoughts you might like to share about your own use of color theory in your photographs. If thinking about color in this manner is new for you, I urge you to read the material that I’ve linked out to in this article, and think about how you might apply it in your own photography. It is sure to enrich your understanding of the world around you and your shooting!
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Inspire

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

8 Comments on "June 2011 Flickr Group Critique"

Trackback | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Ana Matos says:

    Hi 😉 ,

    It is a escalator from the inside of Atomium in Brussels (Europe). I´m the first to critique my own photo: I don´t like the definition at all and I wasn´t expecting that this one had so much views, comments, faves! Although I posted because I wanted to show what a powershot also can do, so I edited just the enough to enhance the original. The original had a blue tone so I enhanced from the incorrect WB.

    C.J. – Reminds me a CD cover, maybe Enigma style 😉

    Red Three – The composition it´s not perfect but the image is very powerful indeed!

    KBT Images – A strong portrait due to the colors!

    This time I don´t have harsh critiques 😉 because I think it was a good theme and selection Andrew.

  2. Greg Williams says:

    Andrew, you made me look at my dance pictures again, and I found one that I had previously passed over for some reason. The original had annoying audience heads in the image, but they were easily cropped out. It has the same red background and black silhouette dancers style but with different poses. So what do you think of the composition of this one?

    “Red 4” http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/5918653445/

    I have some others from that dance that I like, too. If you want to go with a similar theme of a single color and silhouetted dancers, there’s

    “Purple 5” http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/5848231193/in/set-72157626996541814
    and
    “Blue Boy” http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/5848788248/in/set-72157626996541814

    Another favorite is another almost-all red color, but it has the dancers lit up, too. It isn’t the same feeling as the single color with black silhouettes, but I liked the moment of the dance I captured.

    “Ladies in Red” http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/5848779444/in/set-72157626996541814

    I also like the position of the dancers in this one.

    “Blue Lean” http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/5848780472/in/set-72157626996541814

    My most favorite dancer picture came from a rehearsal session for a different dance a few days after the recital. However, I posted it in May, so it wouldn’t be part of the June group. Still, I like the costume the dancer is wearing and how it looks against the backdrop color.

    “Blue Dancer” http://www.flickr.com/photos/22077805@N07/5696870333/in/set-72157624631747093

    As for the other pictures in the picks this month, I agree with Ana’s comment that they’re all good picks for this month’s theme. My particular favorites are the guitar player and the colored buildings.

  3. “Red Four” is a much stronger image. I’ll look at the rest when I’m back with a computer, I’m on my phone right now.

  4. Enivea says:

    I hadn’t considered colour from this perspective, thanks for the lesson!

  5. joe chan says:

    Nice change of pace from the normal critique, Andrew. Very informative and helpful with the visuals. Thanks for taking the time to do this every month.

  6. CJ Schmit says:

    WOW, thanks for once again picking one of my photos. You still need to work on the spelling of my last name though 😉 lol.

    Well “Prognosis Negative” is a photo of my 10 year old daughter wearing a gas mask I recently purchased for a future concept photo I am working on. She really wanted to wear it and have me do some photos so we put some black makeup around her eyes and put the mask on. Did some fun processing on it to make it look a bit more out there. I love post apocalyptic stuff and that is what I was aiming for here.

    ‘Descend,’
    I Love this, the color and the feel of motion really make this work. Without the people as a reference it would be hard to tell if this was going up or down 🙂

    ‘Red Three,’
    I like this and like how the people are silhouetted to a point but the bottom edge of the backdrop is a touch distracting. I understand this was done at a show and not much you can do about it. Over all a pretty good photo though 🙂

    ‘River of Gold,’
    Very nice, love the longer exposure to get the “soft water”. Very well composed and love the colors too!!

    ‘Music in His Bones,’
    Very nice vibrant colors and great comp. This would make an excellent B&W image too!!!

    ‘TullY’s Corporate,’
    Love how all the buildings are different colors and no the typical colors you would see. I could see this hanging on my wall at home 🙂

    ‘Untitled,’
    A very nice and soft looking photo, love the DoF used here. Very well done over all

    ‘Wingtips,’
    A very well done Toned image. SImple yet gets it’s point across. I love that Sepia is used rather than just B&W, gives the image some more “life”

  7. Damn. I did it again, huh? Sorry, CJ. I”ll fix it and hopefully learn from my mistake!

  8. photobook says:

    Descent: I like the use of emotion to really enhance the work. It really interrupts you and captures your attention.

    River of Gold: The colour of this photo is magnificent, managed to really capture the essence of the waters.

    Music in his Bones: Stands out. fun. The backdrop really does make this photo, and I agree with CJ makes an excellent black and white (I should know it’s my wall paper in B&W now).

    Great little selection of photos 🙂

Post a Comment