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Photo Tips and Tricks: Warm and Cool Colors

Tips and TricksWordPress photo challenge for December 26 was Warmth (see my entry here) which made me think about warm colors and cool colors.  So I thought I’d write a Tips and Tricks about which colors are warming and which colors are cooling.  Each color will give you a different feeling and can help you tell your story in a photograph.  The biggest section of this Tips and Tricks will be my photo examples.

Which Colors are Warming and Which are Cooling

This color wheel below will give you a quick idea on which colors will give you that warm cuddly feel and which colors will make you want to put a jacket on.


You see that the warm colors are red to yellow-green.  If you want to warm up a photo add a little bit of orange or yellow to your photo.  You can do this with the white balance on most post-processing software.  You can even change your camera settings to help.  I usually wait until I do my post-processing because it all depends on the feeling I want from the photo once I decide to post it.

The warming colors also tend to energize you, especially the bright reds and oranges.  So you want to keep those colors out of your bedroom.  The best places to use these colors are in your kitchens and dining rooms.  They would be good for classroom or art rooms as well.

The cooler colors are in the range of the violets to green.  These colors tend to calm you down and are soothing. These are wonderful colors for your bedrooms, reading and meditation rooms.  Or any other place you really want to calm down.

Cooler colors tend to make your photo look sharper and clearer.  That is black and white appears to crisper and dramatic.

Black and white photography:  Black and silver actually fall into the blue category on the color wheel.  So if there are a lot of darker tones they would be on cooler side of the color wheel.

Sepia (brown) tones fall on the warmer side of the color wheel.  Brown comes from the color orange on the color wheel.


In these series of photos, think about which ones make you feel warm or which ones make you want to put a jacket on to stay warm.

Which ocean scene would you prefer to stick your toes in?  The original is the blue one.  Oregon coast is extremely cool.  So I always have to warm up my beach scenes to make it look more inviting.

These are the same flowers, although two different photos.  The black and white is clearer, but the sepia toned one appears to be warmer.

The original is the gray clouds against the silver jet.  I added just a little oranges-brown to the clouds to warm the second photo.

Again this is two different photos taken at the time time.  I did add a little extra yellow-orange to the guitar area to highlight the guitar.

Same photo.  The original color is the all the blue.  I added a little yellow and it brought out just a little turquoise in the water and warmed up the clouds to make for a warmer looking scene.

To view my other Tips and Tricks click here.

Qi (energy) hugs,


35 replies »

    • That is a good point. I like it when they both are in a photo….but then that is the contrasting colors that can be so striking. Thanks for commenting.


  1. This is informative, thank you. I enjoy seeing these pics side by side under different temperature treatments. It’s interesting to see just how much temp can change the feel of the picture.

    For me the pic of the guitar player is more artistic in the cooler black and white. The last coastal image is beautiful as both but perhaps more balanced and true in the warmer first one. Meanwhile the first ocean/beachside shot I can’t decide between. 😉 The flowers well they’re hard to choose between but if I had to I’d go with the B&W. I love the sharpness of it. Those two are perhaps my favorite in terms of it being an example of what changing temp can do.

    Thanks for sharing!


      • It’s interesting how that works out. When the color doesn’t matter in terms of what you want to share and show/tell through your image B&W does seem to bring strength to the lines and edges of the details.


  2. I’m really amazed at how adding the orange-brown tones to the picture with the plane changed the look of the picture so much. Living here in chilly Washington, it’s good to know about warming a scene up! Thank you for sharing your expertise!


  3. Useful tips, Cee – I don’t often find myself considering the colours in my photos, I just tend to leave them as they are. Maybe I should try some experimenting … 🙂


  4. “The original is the blue one. Oregon coast is extremely cool. So I always have to warm up my beach scenes to make it look more inviting.” No, you don’t have to do anything. It’s just in your head that you want to warm it up. I don’t like cheating like that. I’m perfectly fine with the colder beaches. I swam in sea colder than 20 C. What would you do if somebody, invited by your photos, go, see something different and then ask you “why did you lie”? The only photo where I don’t mind “tanning” is the flower one.


    • I used to feel as you do about most editing and still do for the most part. I’ve seen the Oregon coast quite warm at times. Photography and composition is an art, being artistic with editing is also an art. It is all up to interpretation. I personally don’t editing on flowers, because I like them as they are. I switch from cool or warm colors on landscapes. It just depends on my mood and what I want to create. It’s all a matter of opinion and style for each person individually. I respect that in all photographers. Thanks for commenting.


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