Category Archives: Part 3 – Colour

Exercise: Colour Relationships (TAoP)

 Part 1 to produce one photograph for each combination of primary and secondary colours that follows the rule of proportion as proposed by J.W. Von Goethe.

Part 2 produce 3 – 4 images which feature colour combinations that appeal to me. Be aware of any imbalance in the combination and study its effect.

The OCA course notes have introduced a colour ratio theory proposed by a German poet and playwright J.W. Goethe. Goethe has assigned the following values to the six colours: yellow 9, orange 8, red and green 6, blue 4 and violet 3. For the first part of this exercise we are required to show the ideal proportions for how much colour occupies the frame, which are:

Red:green 1:1

Orange:blue 1:2

Yellow:violet 1:3


The red flower is slightly prominent in the image allowing for more green to be included within the background to make the ratio even. I was conscious not to have an image that was two objects of the same size and shape next to one another. Getting the focal length correct to produce an even ratio in a less obvious arrangement required several shots.


Again for this image I wanted to try to find a scene that wasn’t too obvious – a sunset would have been a fairly easy shot in regards to finding the correct ratio (the timing of a sunset can result in a vast range of ratios). I chose a shot that did not include a plain blue background to make the image a bit more interesting.


This was a hard ratio to find. Nature wise my best bet was flowers but i was quickly running out of time and did not want to use flowers twice (as i had used them for red:green). However, i think this does meet the objective but is fairly uninteresting.

For part 2 i chose the following images that caught my eye in regards to the colours:


It is instantly noticeable that these colours clash – yet it is such a striking piece of street work and I feel it works really well. The main colours (red, pink and purple) are found next to each other on the colour chart and therefore should not be regarded as balanced. There is yellow and orange in the image which again are next to red and violet in the chart. With the addition of some blue and white it counter acts the red/purple hues to an extent. This is an excellent example to contradict the rule of colour relationships put forward by J.W. Von Goethe stating ‘using two opposing colours in an image helps achieve a sense of harmony’ as i often regard colours next to each other together can be very harmonious i.e groups of blues and greens.


Here is another example of 2 colours found next to each other on the colour wheel. In theory, the picture should appear slightly imbalanced but this is not the case. This may be reduced in result of the neutral skin tone colour adding balance as orange/red (i.e a fleshy hue) are opposite blue and green, thus supporting Goethes theory.


This piece of street art uses opposite colours which support the colour wheel rule, but the ratio’s are unbalanced. Goethe proposed that orange and blue should have a ratio of 1:2 therefore more blue than orange. However this shot shows an almost equal amount of the 2 hues, yet appears balanced. The artwork appears to be 2 ‘Bluebirds’. Bluebirds have a orange/blue ratio very similar to that in the photograph and it may be because the eye is seeing a replica of a real life object, it processes it as balanced, as it is familiar.


In regards to this image the colours are all over the place! It includes every single colour from the colour wheel – red, yellow, orange, green, blue and violet. It immediately caught my eye simply because it is SO colourful.  Do I think it is balanced? I’m still trying to come to a conclusion! With so much going on it is a lot for the eye to take in and process, but i feel that the lower word “owed” has harmony – again it uses colours that are next to each other in the wheel (blues, pinks, reds and oranges) Having said that – the top word “dietism” uses opposite colours therefore producing the textbook definition of harmony. I am really glad that i managed to find something including all colours as i wanted to study the effect that this would have.





Exercise: Primary and secondary colours (TAoP)

Find scenes or parts of scenes that are dominated by a single one of the primary and secondary colours.  With each colour vary the exposure slightly to produce a set of three images; the first using the average meter reading, the second half a stop brighter and the third half a stop darker.  Select the image which is closest in colour to the relevant colour in the colour wheel.  Try to find natural colours rather than those that are man-made such as painted surfaces.

For this exercise we are required to take 16 photographs – 3 of each of the primary and secondary colours – one with the recommended exposure, one with a lower exposure, and one with a higher exposure. I was lucky enough to be doing this exercise just as spring had arrived and the flowers had started to bloom. There were plenty of examples of the 6 colours in every day life, but the course notes advised trying to find these colours through natural examples rather than man made. Some colours were easier to find than others (daffodils are everywhere at the minute!) but i tried to make a conscious effort to use subjects that i felt represented each colour as closely as possible. (I had intended to photograph an orange flower, but the results were not as obvious as with the satsumas.)

Here is the colour wheel provided by the OCA.


Red at average exposure reading (0)

red 0

Red at + 1 exposure

red + 1

Red at – 1 exposure

red - 1

I think the shot at + 1 matches the colour wheel the best.

Green at average exposure reading:

Green 0

Green at + 1

Green + 1

Green at – 1

Green - 1

Again i feel the green at + 1 exposure matches the colour wheel green the closest.

Yellow at average exposure

yellow 0

Yellow at + 1

yellow + 1

Yellow at – 1

yellow - 1

For the yellow image i think that the recommended exposure setting is the closest match.

Blue at average setting:

Blue 0


Blue + 1

Blue + 1

Blue – 1

blue -1

For blue, the – 1exposure matches the colour wheel best.

Orange at average exposure

orange 0

Orange at + 1

orange + 1

Orange at – 1

orange - 1

The + 1 setting most represents the orange from the colour wheel.

Lastly, violet at average exposure

violet 0

Violet + 1:

violet + 1

Violet – 1

violet - 1

The last photo at – 1 is the closest match to the colour wheel. I struggled a bit with finding a typically violet flower, but will re do these images and try to find a closer match.

I found this exercise very interesting as it taught me how to change the feel of a photograph by using the settings on my camera instead of post processing programs. People often think that exposure relates directly to light, and while this is true, it is a major key factor in changing the hue of colours. For example, the blue sky (at – 1 exposure) looks like it could have been taken late in the evening, or taken somewhere in the Mediterranean as it is a very full, rich blue tone. However, it was actually taken around 9am on a fairly bright London morning.


Exercise: Colours into tones in black and white (TAoP)

Create a still-life arrangement that includes the colours red, yellow, green and blue.  Also include a piece of grey card.  Convert the taken image into five black and white copies and process each version using the different colour digital sliders in your processing software to mimic the effects of coloured filters.

Filters can be used in photography, either as an actual coloured filter in front of the camera lens or as a digital filter applied during post-processing i.e. photoshop. A colour filter works by letting through its own colour but absorbs its opposite, complementary, colour.  For example, a blue filter allows all blue light, such as from a blue sky, through it but blocks yellow light.  Intermediate colours are affected relatively; violet passes through fairly well, but yellow-green is mainly blocked.  Filters are used in colour photography but have a deeper effect when used in the conversion of black and white images.

This exercise was fairly straightforward. I arranged a still life that included red, yellow, green and blue and also the grey card in the top corner. I then used photoshop to convert the image into black and white, and then applied the necessary filters. None of the brightness settings were altered as i wanted the images to simply be converted to the necessary colour filter effect. In hindsight this may have resulted in the effects not being as prominent, but i did not want to alter any levels other than the colour.

Original image:

Filter original

Converted to black and white:

Greyscale no filter

Yellow filter:

yellow filter

The only real difference with the yellow filter in comparison to the standard converted image is that the yellow (lemon) is slightly brighter. This is expected as the yellow filter allows yellow to pass through, while blocking its opposite colour – blue. Therefore the blue background appears very dark, almost black.

red filter:

red filter

The red filter has again brightened the yellow but also the red (radishes) which is to be expected. The green cucumber has darkened substantially as green is blocked through the red filter. Blue is also considered to be an opposite of red – therefore the blue background is still appearing very dark.

Green filter:

Green filter

The green filter absorbs the green of the cucumber therefore brightening its appearance, while the red radishes have darkened to the point that they are barely visable.

Blue filter:

blue filter

This image highlights the effect of filters extremely well. The blue filter has completely blocked out the yellow leaving the lemon to appear black. The blue background has lightened significantly giving a very different overall feel to the image.

Use of colour filters in black and white images can have a major effect on the tones and there are certain ‘rules’ for each colour of filter. By learning which filter blocks out or allows specific colours to pass through helps the photographer to compose and shoot an image that should work well in black and white. The use of filters can give the photographer more control in regards to deliberately making an object stand out in a black and white image by careful filter selection.

The results of this exercise may have been slightly more noticeable had I played around with other levels such as brightness and contrast, but as i mentioned before i wanted the colour filter to be the only alteration.


Exercise: Control the strength of a colour (TAoP)

Find a strong definitive colour and choose a viewpoint so that the colour fills the viewfinder frame. Find the average exposure setting – the one your camera’s meter or your own meter recommends. Then take a sequence of pictures; all composed exactly the same, but differently exposed from bright to dark. Start at one stop brighter than the original metered setting, then stop down the aperture by half a stop each time.

Upon reading the guide notes in the OCA handbook i was pretty confused. The exercise is dealing with varying the exposure, yet it requires the exposure to be kept at the same setting, altering the aperture instead. While at first I thought this was a very long winded way to get the same result as if you were to simply alter the exposure settings – I did learn quite a bit about the effect different settings have in relation to one another. I haven’t shot too much using the manual setting either – which gives the photographer 100% control of all settings.

I found that my camera gave me a shutter speed of 1/4th (this may have been to do with the fact that I was shooting indoors) so I applied this shutter speed to the following apertures: f5.6, f7.1, f10, f16. Any setting beyong this was completely black. These settings demonstrated the objective.





My main observation is that the brightness of the pink is reduced through each photo. It’s clear and vivid in the first image, standing out from the surroundings, but as it gets darker it is less noticable. Altering exposure shouldn’t alter the hue of the colour itself, but the pink could be mistaken for red in the last picture. This may be because pink is not a primary colour. Had i done this exercise with, say, a red subject it may have appeared to have stayed red throughout. This is something i will experiment with later.

In conclusion altering the aperture has affected the brightness of the colour with hue and saturation remaining the same.

Part 3: Colour

Primary Colours
The primary colours traditionally used by painters are Red, Yellow and Blue.  Digital photographers should be aware of the fact that light and digital technology have a different relationship with colour. Transmission primaries are RGB ( red, green and blue).  Mixing coloured light produces different results from mixing paint that are not intuitive. for example red and green produce yellow – which is not what the eye espects.

There are two ways of dealing with colour. Technical deals with the process of recording and displaying colour RGB.  Perceptual deals with the way we see and feel about colour therefore using red, yellow and blue.

We should think of hue as the essential quality that decides how we name a colour – red, purple, blue etc. Hue can be changed by using coloured filters over the lens, or coloured lights.  It can also be altered through the camera settings, including adjusting white-balance.  FInally it can be altered in post-processing, particularly when shot in RAW.

When we think of a colour we can think of its saturation as pure, intense, saturated or dull, weak, unsaturated. Different hues show maximum saturation at different levels of brightness. Saturation is less-adjustable at the time of shooting than Hue or Brilliance, however modern camera settings do allow alterations.  Again, this can be adjusted in post-processing.

We think of colours in terms of how bright they are.  For example very bright, bright, fairly bright, average, slightly dark, dark or very dark. Brightness can be controlled by exposure.