Going through hundreds of my colour photographs recently, I decided it would be fun to blog a bit about colour theory and then post series of images every other day or so under one colour category. The other day I was reading something on a design blog about colour, and how black is all colours combined and white is the absence of colour. There were ensuing arguments in the thread about this issue and how it is different depending on whether you’re talking about an artist’s paints or the light spectrum that photographers work with.
So, I figured it couldn’t hurt to talk about this subject since it seems to be a little confusing for a lot of us. Colour is basically the way light is reflected, transmitted or absorbed by objects that is then transferred to our retina and interacts with the light receptors in our eyes. Light sources are mixtures of various wavelengths of light. When a beam of light hits an object, some of the colour spectrum is absorbed by the object and the rest reflects off of it, giving you the indication of what colour it is. Refraction describes scenarios when you can actually see the whole spectrum of colour, such as in the case of rainbows or light bouncing through a glass pyramid. The post I read on the design blog was correct about black being all colours combined if referring to an artists palette, but not when referring to light spectrums. Black is in fact the absence of colour since the object absorbs the whole spectrum leaving us with no colour to see. When the whole spectrum collides and reflects off the surface and nothing is absorbed, that appears white (all colours combined).
In photography, colour is important when considering composition, it can develop the impact in a photograph, and it has a profound effect on our emotions as well. Colour theory is a subject than can be studied in depth, but many of us in different careers use it on a day to day basis (interior decorators, photographers, painters, graphic designers, and much more). The primary colours for most artists are red, blue and yellow. These three colours can be mixed to make all other colours. But in the world of digital photography we use additive primary colours; which are red, green and blue. These colours of light combine to create cyan, magenta and yellow. Printers are designed in this colour model, which is why photographers must often convert to CMYK colour mode when sending their work to the press.
My upcoming posts will all be about different colours on the colour wheel. There will be far less words and lots more images, please feel free to comment on your favourite posts!