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REMINDER Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge: #18 Contrasting Colors

This Compose Yourself Photo Challenge (CCY) Theme is #18 Contrasting Colors and will be open for another week.


ComplementaryThis is our final week where I will discuss photographic color tips for composition.  This time I’ll talk about contrasting colors, those that are opposite to each other on the color wheel.

You can see on the chart (to the right), the colors that I refer to as contrasting are opposite.  These colors pop with each other.  These color combinations will also have one cool and one warm color.  Remember the saying that opposites attract?   I believe they do, and in that attraction make a strong statement.

The most popular combinations are:

Red and Green

  • Christmas Colors
  • Logos:  7 Eleven logo, Papa John’s, Quizno’s Sub sandwiches
  • Flag colors: Mexico, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Italy


Blue and Orange

  • Sports team colors, Football-Denver Broncos, Hockey-Anaheim Ducks, Baseball-NY Mets
  • TV shows and movies often have a theme color such as NCIS’ famous orange wall with the dark blue accent color
  • Posters, especially for movies and TV shows

Purple and Yellow

  • Sports Teams – Basketball-LA Lakers
  • Amusement Park Rides – Rollercoasters
  • Kids toys
  • Clothing

Because I usually take my photos outside in nature, it wasn’t easy to illustrate this for you using my own photos, but I hope that I’ve found some to illustrate my point.

Why should this be important to you as a photographer?  If you like vivid colors that pop, you will want to make sure you have one cool and one warm color in any picture you compose.  An example might be if you are doing portrait work and you really want your subject to stand out, make sure that the person is wearing the opposite color as the background.  If you are shooting food, make sure your background contrasts with the primary color of your food.  Things like that.

The point is to do a little planning to create the shot you want.  It’s as true of color as it is of perspective, placement of lines, or any other principle we’ve been discussing.

In Review

Color theory for photography is really quite basic.  Here is a recap of what we learned in this series.

  1. The Color Wheel.
  2. The colors that are considered warm (reds, oranges, yellows, lime greens) and cool (greens, teals, blues, purples).
  3. The colors that are harmonious with each other or match closely with each other.  Colors are next to each other on the color wheel.
  4. The colors that are considered to be contrasting because they are exactly opposite on the color wheel and bring out the differences.

If you want to find out about more about color in general for matching clothing, designs, graphic art, you may want to study up on color theory.  It is much more complex than that of color for photography.

Photo Examples

Here are just some examples of contrasting colors.  This should give you an idea of what I am looking for.


Blue and orange

Red and Green

Red and Green

Purple and yellow

Purple and yellow

Upcoming Challenges

  • #19 Geometry (starts 4th Wednesday of March)
  • #20 Balance (starts 2nd Wednesday of April)
  • #21 Guide the Viewer (starts 4th Wednesday of April)
  • #22 Brightest Spot (starts 2nd Wednesday of May)

Qi (energy) hugs


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