The Viewfinder

A Very Basic Look At Color Theory by Teri Whittaker

19 Feb 2020 10:20 PM | Teri Whittaker, M.Photog.Cr., CPP (Administrator)

I do not have an art background as so many in photography do.  So, as I endeavor to grow my photographic art, and I try to consider color harmony (one of the 12 elements of our PPA photographic competition), I ask myself what is it and how do I apply it?

So I started doing a little sleuthing to find out the things I did not know.  Like did you know that hue simply means color?  You are probably thinking to yourself, Teri, did you not learn this in kindergarten?  No, I didn’t go to kindergarten, but I didn’t learn it in first grade, or second grade, or third grade…you get the idea.  I only recently came across this little nugget of information.  But maybe there is someone else out there who is as clueless as I am, so I am going to be vulnerable and share my ignorance.

So in addition to learning that hue means color, I also learned that color value is the lightness or darkness of a color.  The lightness of a color is referred to as a tint, and the darkness of a color is referred to as a shade.

And that is not all!  If I add gray to the color, I reduce the intensity of that color.  When I add gray to a color the result is a tone of the original color.

Okay, so now I know that hue equals color, that color value equals the lightness (tint) or darkness (shade) of a color and I found out that I can create tones of a color by adding gray.  What else did I want to understand? Oh yeah, what is color harmony?  Color harmony is using a pleasing color palette or color scheme in our photographs/art.  I learned that there are six commonly used color schemes.

So there you have it!  Color schemes that will help establish color harmony. I have found my little journey into the world of color theory helpful when planning for image creation.  I hope you find the information useful as well!


  • 23 Feb 2020 3:59 PM | Karen Butts, M.Photog.Cr., CPP
    Thanks Teri! Great explanation of color! To add to that, colors have different meanings. The meanings are in different in various cultures. They can help set the mood you are trying to create and also help tell your story.
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  • 26 Feb 2020 8:10 PM | Joan Reynolds
    Thanks, Teri! Color Harmony has always been a challenge for me. Your explanation makes it very clear! Thanks for taking the time to share this.
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  • 27 Feb 2020 6:56 PM | Kevin Falcon, Cr.Photog., CPP (Administrator)
    You can always learn more. And I did! Thanks for sharing.
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  • 28 Feb 2020 12:18 AM | Ron Vachon
    Thanks for sharing this, Teri.
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