Look OUT for Compl ementary Colours
What ’s the Big Idea?
Summertime is bursting with complementary colours such as red poppies with green grass, a yellow sunflower against purple irises and a deep orange sand dune leading to a blue sky, as shown below. Putting these colours together will create striking images, but first let’s understand the basic principle behind complementary colours so it will help you identify subjects when you are out shooting.
If you take any of the three primary colours (red, blue and yellow) and mix the other two colours together, the resulting colour is the complementary colour of the primary colour. So, to get the complement of red, mix yellow and blue together to make green. To get the complement of blue, mix red and yellow together to get orange. To get the complement of yellow, mix red and blue together to produce purple. Look at a colour wheel: any colours that are opposite each other are complementary colours. When you use them together in an image, it creates a striking colour contrast that will make your image pop. Complementary colours are used all the time in advertising to make the ads stand out.
What ’s the Key?
The key to this technique is recognising which colours will work together, and executing the shot in a way that makes these colours as bold as possible. In this image of a sand dune in Monument Valley, I used a polarising filter to saturate the colours more. The side lighting not only enabled maximum polarisation, it also brought out the patterns in the sand. This has helped to create an image that leaps off the page and demands the viewer’s attention.