The Importance of Color in Photography: An Interview with Mitchell Kanashkevich

Categories: Photography
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Published on: March 29, 2011

Digital Photography Tips: Digital Photography School

via The Importance of Color in Photography: An Interview with Mitchell Kanashkevich.


Since launching our Captivating Color eBook last week I’ve had a few questions from readers on the topic of color, its importance and why we created a whole eBook on a topic like this. I thought there was no better person to ask than the eBook’s author – Mitchell Kanashkevich.

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Mitchell, why did you decide to write a whole eBook to color?

The main reason is that there’s a real lack of understanding when it comes to color. Generally people just don’t realize how important it is. I find this to be the case with even with some of the more experienced photographers. If they have a great grasp of everything, except for color, their images ultimately still fall apart, they don’t quite have the intended impact or the maximum impact. It can be extremely frustrating when you feel you did everything right, but the image still doesn’t grab you, doesn’t captivate or engage you emotionally.

I wrote the eBook in large part to help those who already understand some of the photography basics to get to the next level, but also to make those who are just starting out aware, right from the beginning of how important color is.

So why exactly is color important?

There are two main reasons. Color can help tell us stories (visually) and it can be used to communicate on an emotional level. The emotion part is what I find really, really important. I would go so far as to say that color is the primary factor responsible for making a photo feel exciting, lively, mysterious or perhaps melancholic or a little sombre. Looking at the image at the top of the page, you can see that something as simple as clothes on a line against a wall can look dramatic and feel exciting, just because of color.

It’s true, emotions can be a vital part of photography, please expand a little on this topic.

Emotions are vital. Most people would agree that when looking at photographs they’re not particularly concerned if a photo has been composed in a clever way, but everyone responds when the image makes them feel something.

That color plays part in evoking emotions is not a new idea, if you look into other fields – interior decorators for example put great emphasis on color, if you watch most high production movies carefully, you’ll notice that a lot of them have stylized scenes, the color in those scenes is of a certain tint that’s very evocative of emotions and moods. If you search the internet, people are even talking about healing with color. So it is ultimately very significant, but as I say, a lot of folks do not understand it and are not aware of it.

image 02.jpg

Could it be because we don’t think that we can control color in any way? For example, we can’t change the colors in a landscape when we are making the shot; can we?

We can actually do a number of things to control color. With the landscape example you mention we can control color indirectly, if we understand how it works. You see, the colors in that landscape won’t stay the same, they will change depending on time of day, on the lighting conditions. Light is one factor that changes color tremendously, if we understand how it does that, we essentially gain some control over how the color in our landscape photo will look. Obviously it’s not the same amount of control as we’d have if we were to paint that landscape, but it can still have a huge impact. The strong presence of golden yellow in the image above for example, is only there because I shot this scene at a particular time of day, during the magic/golden hour, when light tends to give colors this magical, golden tint. You could say that I indirectly controlled color by deciding when to shoot, under what light.

You mention that there are a number of things we can do to control color. What are some of the others?

Composition – we can obviously frame certain colors in and others out, we can find angles from where colors look like patterns. If we have any control over the shoot, we can have models/subjects change costumes or we can re-arrange still life objects. Then of course there’s the post processing stage, where we can really do a lot of color manipulation, down to the most minute detail, depending on what we are trying to achieve.

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Ok, we can control color, but other than the emotional side of things; why would we want to control it?

Well, as I mentioned, emotions do play a huge part in determining whether an image is basically good or not, but it’s also about using color to tell stories.

Visual story-telling (which is what we do with photography) is all about drawing attention to what’s important to the story and keeping our gaze there, color helps with that a lot. As you can see in the image above, the bright colored part of the frame is where our gaze goes immediately, it’s like I’m saying “Look, the lamp and the man are where the story is!” The rest of the colors in the image are fairly subdued and much darker, so we don’t really notice those until later and that’s fine, because the main part of the story is not there. On the other hand, if there was a bright color which didn’t have purpose within the story, it would confuse the viewer. There are ultimately quite a few things to keep in mind about color and visual story-telling, there’s a lot that we can do to make our stories more powerful and clear and that’s what I discuss at length in the eBook.

What would you say is the number one mistake that people make, when it comes to color?

Thinking that more is better or not realizing that too many colors, especially colors that don’t follow any order (e.g. not in a pattern) make for pretty disengaging, confusing, even visually unpleasant imagery.

When we see something in real life, we are able to process, subtract and to filter out everything outside of what we are focusing on, including color, this way we can make sense of the world around us. With an image, the photographer is essentially the “filter” that gets rid of everything that isn’t important to the story or the emotions that the photo aims to convey. If that “filter” isn’t working effectively, if there’s a whole bunch of colors in the image, which don’t play a specific role, we end up with chaos and whatever message the photographer intended to convey is lost.

Engineering vs Liberal Arts.. for entrepreneurship?

Categories: Articles
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Published on: March 27, 2011

From a recent article by Vivek Wadhwa about “what subjects they should major in order to become a tech entrepreneur,”..?

Here is his response and a very interesting article: [The Link]

Here is an excerpt:

..”So there is no black and white here. We need musicians, artists, and psychologists, as much as we need bio-medical engineers, computer programmers, and scientists.

My advice to my students—and to my own children—is to study what interests them the most; to excel in fields in which they have the most passion and ability; to change the world in their own way and on their own terms. Once they master their domain, they can find the path to entrepreneurship. They can then come up with creative ways of solving the problems that they have encountered, and apply their ideas to other fields where their knowledge adds value. Maybe they can team up with the hard-core engineers who develop the clunky, inelegant, over-engineered products that Bill is famous for; maybe work with Steve to create the next iPhone or iPad.”




[TED talk] Paul Root Wolpe: It’s time to question bio-engineering

Categories: Talks
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Published on: March 25, 2011

A very interesting/stimulating TED talk about our current developments in bio-engineering… How far do we want to go? Time to reflect ourselves as to what we want to do from these technologies.


Categories: Articles
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Published on: March 24, 2011

Seth’s Blog

via Originality.


I get two kinds of mail about this. One group points to organizations or individuals who are stealing my ideas. “Stop them!” they say. The other doesn’t hesitate to point out that I’ve never had an original idea in my life, and that I’m merely a promotional hack.

Lewis Hyde’s new book is about the nature of ideas, and how they improve with use. It turns out that anyone who produces a totally new idea, something completely out of thin air, is unlikely to be a productive artist and a lot more likely to be seen as a total loon. Every artist builds on what came before. Ben Franklin, Bill Shakespeare, Alexander Graham Bell, Martin Luther King Jr., Shepard Fairey, Ricky Jay, Maya Angelou–all thieves.

Abbey Ryan is an artist on the leading edge of the painting-a-day practice. Like all visual artists, she finds her inspiration everywhere, from the supermarket to the work of other artists. Unlike some, though, she’s not reluctant to give credit to those that came before her.

For me, those that get all up in arms about sources of inspiration, the ones that misuse words like ‘plagiarism’ are rarely actively producing anything of value themselves. They’re merely trolls, eager to join a mob instead of spending their time and energy inventing, remixing and poking. If that’s all you can contribute–vague threats of lawsuits, insults and screeds–we’re better off ignoring you.

And for the self-styled producer who does nothing but copy and pass things off, we’re better off without you as well.

Now, more than ever, we can see the work an artist (in any medium, any endeavor) produces over time. If all an artist can do is steal, the truth will out. For the rest, though, a lifetime of consistent provocation, inspiration and generosity can’t help but shine through. Inspirations and all.

— Seth Godin

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