Understanding colour in brand photography
This article forms part of our How to create amazing brand photography series of articles, explaining how to create photos and images for your brand that will bolster your branding and create a visual landscape for your business. See the bottom of this post for more articles from this series.
Colour can be used creatively to enhance your branding and influence the behaviour of your audience. Research has shown that colour affects purchasing intent precisely because it can have such an intrinsic and meaningful effect on how a brand is perceived. Additionally, as the human brain typically responds better to brands that are immediately recognisable failing to acknowledge the power of colour in everything from your graphic design right through to your brand photography is a mistake that you simply can’t afford to make.
Picasso observed that colour can truthfully reflect the vicissitudes of human emotion, which can be seen today in the phrases we use to convey how we're feeling, such as “I’m green with envy”. The concept of colour psychology isn’t new, however as colour can greatly influence the perception and ultimate success of your brand, selecting the right colour palette for every brand image is critical.
Colour Theory and Colour Psychology
Creating photography with harmonious colour palettes is reliant on an understanding of colour theory. Equally, however, it is important to note that our response to colours will also be influenced by cultural and personal experiences. So, for example, on a personal level, you might be particularly drawn to green because it reminds you of your childhood in the countryside.
In general, warm colours are energetic and uplifting, whereas cool colours are calming and relaxing. Colour theory is markedly more complex though, so it’s worth running through what each colour means, both psychologically and symbolically.
One of the most immediately striking colours, red is often used to symbolise warmth, comfort and love. Its vivacity and dynamism also has strong associations with passion, strength, and excitement, which can stimulate the senses and encourage people to take risks.
Alert, happy, cheerful and warm, yellow often creates a distinct feeling of optimism and hope. Yellow can quickly capture attention, encourage concentration, and inspire communication.
In addition to being an extremely calming colour, blue is strongly associated with dignity, authority, trust, cleanliness and security. The relaxing properties of this colour have been proven to lower blood pressure and enhance productivity. Blue is consistently named as the world’s favourite colour, a trend that is consistent across four continents and amongst both men and women.
This bright and cheerful colour symbolises strength, pleasure, endurance and ambition. Its energetic and invigorating personality can encourage people to act on impulse and instil a sense of excitement and enthusiasm.
As another deeply relaxing colour, green symbolises nature, freedom, and tranquillity. Green also has cultural connotations and is deeply connected to both jealousy and luck. It has soothing and comforting effects on the eye, and can even alleviate feelings of sadness or sorrow.
With an inherent sense of wisdom, dignity, spirituality and royalty, purple hues exude wealth and success. As purple also radiates romanticism, imagination and femininity, it can encourage people to explore their creativity and embrace innovation.
As a gentle and feminine colour, pink symbolises well-being and gentleness. Alongside its poise, pink also promotes a sense of relaxation and calmness.
Symbolising solidarity, humility and dependability, brown tones have a certain sense of steadfastness that cannot be replicated through any other colour.
Black and White
White is symbolic of youthfulness, clarity and purity whereas black is mysterious, seductive and elegant. In photography, black and white imagery can be used to create a range of different moods and convey a variety of ideas and messages, from vintage elegance to dramatic monochromatic modernity.
Colour and Photography
It is sometimes tricky to prompt an audience to respond to clever framing or composition, however, everyone will respond to an image that genuinely makes them feel something. As we have seen, colour can evoke a variety of different emotions and, when paired appropriately with the intended message, images can be enormously powerful and emotive.
Although you might think that you have little control over the colour palette within an image, there are a variety of ways in which colour can be controlled. Light plays a significant role in how colour behaves. Shooting the same landscape at dawn, midday and dusk, for example, will produce three images of the same subject, but with vastly different colour palettes.
You might need your brand imagery to accurately convey the colours of your products or creatively incorporate your brand colours to create a cohesive aesthetic. Alternatively, you might want to create a very specific mood or atmosphere, which can be further enhanced with the addition of colour treatments in post-production.
Even in the realm of black and white photography, colour palettes are complex. You could choose, for example, to create high contrast images by incorporating both deep blacks and bright whites. Alternatively, you could opt for a more desaturated aesthetic and create images mostly comprised of shades of grey, or use an even range of tones from black to white.
A Few Examples of Effective Colour Palettes
Adopting a classic complimentary colour palette with a heavy focus on blue and orange tones will create extremely easy-on-the-eye photographs that feel natural, familiar, and distinctly human. In addition to being ideal for skin tones, this palette will also showcase natural landscapes beautifully.
Utilising an autumnal-inspired colour palette featuring lots of rich red and orange colours that are offset by deep burgundy and rugged brown will produce balanced photographs that immediately make a visual impact.
Muted earth tones including lots of grey, green and beige can produce desaturated images that feel ethereal, dreamlike and cinematic. The addition of white spaces, occasional pops of blue or rich oranges, and a complete avoidance of true black tones will create harmonious photographs that encourage meaningful connections based on a shared familiarity and deep-rooted sense of trust.
When establishing your own brand colour palette, begin by identifying the colours that are most essential to your branding and the feeling you want to convey. From here, distil these options down to an essential colour palette that deftly conveys your brand personality and establishes the atmosphere you want to share with your audience. Applying this palette to a variety of images will help you to determine whether it works to create the cohesive and communicative aesthetic you had in mind.
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