Portraits in Color: The Importance of Mood and Emotion in Your Images

Color is everywhere. It drives our choices in areas such as clothes, furniture, cars, and homes. And in your pictures, color plays an important role in how others feel about your art.

I. Psychology and Color

We all know that color affects us in many ways, but why? Color specialist Leatrice Eiseman states, “We have a repository of information about a color. For example, the color blue is almost always associated with blue skies, which when we are children is a positive thing — it means playing outside and fun. Evolutionary it also means there are no storms to come. This is why it is reminds us of stability and calm.” In other words, color and emotion are based on experiences. What does the color purple remind you of? Red? Vanessa Van Edwards, founder of Science of People, provides us with a handy chart about color and its perceived emotion:

II. Color in Your Photography

Now that you have an understanding of the effect of color in life, use it to your advantage in your work to connect with with your current and potential clients. Use it to establish a firm foundation of your unique style. Use it to stand out; to be heard. Color toning in my work is vital to my style. After retouching my photos I spend a great deal of time working on the color toning of my image (almost as long as dodging and burning). In a future article I will discuss how to color tone in Photoshop, but for now an understanding of color is important for your foundation.

When color toning your image ask yourself these questions:

1. What feeling did I have when taking this photo? Do I get that same feeling when I look at my finished image?

2. What feeling do I want to express in this photo?

3. How can I touch the hearts of the people that see my work? What do I want others to feel?

In many important moments in our lives such as births, weddings, or graduations, we may not always remember what happened or what was said, but almost always we will remember how we felt. Color is a key part in bringing out our feelings. Use it wisely to connect to your audience. Use it to let people not only see your work but feel it as well.

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