Artistic Principles of Photography
Once you’ve mastered the technical aspects of your camera, think about color palettes and you will grow as a photographer.
Here’s a wonderful article about analogous colors, complimentary and split complimentary colors, as well as the basics like primary, secondary and tertiary colors. Keep in mind that the terms are specific to the color wheel they are using. Many types of color wheels exist, and analogous colors on one color wheel, could end up being complimentary colors on another.
Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man /// Moses Harris /// Goethe’s Color Wheel
Claude Boutet’s Color Wheel from 1708
Moses Harris’s Color Wheel from 1766
Ignaz Schiffermüller’s Color Wheel from 1772
All color comes from light. Color is a wavelength of light.
Art teachers usually teach that the primary colors are red, yellow and blue. They teach it in kindergarten, and even in computer science at NYU. Isaac Newton taught, that the primary colors are Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple and Indigo. This is because he based them on the color spectrum from a prism rather than acrylic paints. But, the reality is that primary colors do not exist. Color is subjective, and everyone sees it differently.
Popular Views on Primary Color
Isaac Newton’s Primary Colors…
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple and Indigo.
Goethe’s Primary Colors…
Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple.
Mrs. Apples Primary Colors…
Red, Yellow, Blue.
Wikipedia’s Primary Colors
Primary colors are subjective and therefore do not exist.
Webster’s Primary Colors
Primary colors are subjective colors that make secondary and tertiary colors.
Shade: Making a color darker with black
Example: Pale green to green
Tint: Making a color lighter using white
Example: Red to pink
Hue: The colors as they shift on the spectrum, without becoming darker or lighter
Example: Orange to orange-yellow to yellow
Value: How light or dark a color is, in terms of luminosity.
Example: Candlelight, fire, sun or how gold is more luminous than a yellow crayon.
Structure & Form
Think about the proportions of the photo.
Fibonacci, Leonardo da Vinci and Vitruvius took a mathematical to find what the believed are the divine portions. Vitruvius wrote in de Architectura good architecture comes from symmetry. Likewise, good photography uses symmetry and the divine ratio. World class photography and architecture uses the rules, to break them. Elements of symmetry in the background maybe, with an asymmetrical foreground. In the Far East, Feng Shui, meaning wind and water, embraces natures flowing elements. Feng Shui is the ancient art of creating flowing energy, through design with lighting and objects. Vastu Shastra, the ancient Indian laws of architecture, merges the two ideas of the East and West. The wisdom of Vastu Shastra created man made, perfectly symmetrical temples, but allow for the wild overgrowth of nature. So what should the photographer follow?
Look for flowing elements and follow them in nature, but also look for symmetry. If a building is a perfect circle or square, why not center it in a square photograph?
Candida Höfer is a photographer with a symmetrical European style.
Jen Huang takes photos that flow in harmony, perhaps inspired by a touch of Feng Shui.
Bharat Sikka archives a culture influenced by Vastu Shastra, now mirroring the West.
Think about structure and form and watch your photography grow!