Instantly Level up Your Photos and Videos by Implementing Color Contrast

As visual artists, one of the most powerful tools we have to tell our story is color. In todays article, learn the importance of using contrasting colors to create depth in your frame and draw your audiences eye straight to the subject.

To me, the element that makes or breaks an image is its use of color. Today we'll be discussing the power of implementing complimentary color schemes into your images, and creating visual contrast. 

In this week's episode of Four Minute Film School, released by The Aputure YouTube channel, they bring in fellow A-Team member and editor Matt Esterson to host. In this short, but jam-packed episode, Esterson starts by breaking down the techniques that will be used in this video: mixing colors, color temperature, and color combination. Next, he dives into his process of how he analyzes a scene to incorporate the proper color scheme, and then walks you through two setups using diverse color combinations. 

Of the setups that this video shows, one of my favorite techniques I use in a majority of my portrait sessions, is creating a color contrast between my subjects wardrobe and the background. I like to call this technique a "color sandwich" or a foreground background relationship. By using complementing colors, the eye is led directly to the subject. One of my go-to color combinations is red and blue because of the fact that the color red moves forward, while blue recedes.   

If I'm not directly affecting the color contrast in a practical way, I'll bring in a gel and modify my light to output the opposite color of the background. In the example below, the light on the subject is red, and the corresponding background is green. This leads the eye straight to the subject.

By implementing color contrast into your scene, you can easily level up your lighting setups and instantly create a mood and depth. How to you use complementary color schemes in your photos? Post your favorite shots in the comments below!

Eli Dreyfuss's picture

Eli Dreyfuss is a professional portrait photographer based in sunny Miami, Florida. He focuses on making ordinary people look like movie stars in his small home studio. Shortly after graduating high school he quickly established himself in the art world and became an internationally awarded & published artist.

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I enjoyed watching this video about color contrast. Thank you for sharing.

Thanks for watching and commenting :) I love this technique as well!

Great article and video. Thank you for sharing!

good tutorial, I've learned a lot.

Nice Article