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CCYL 16: Harmonious Colors

Since most of us are stuck inside our homes, I decided to rerun a series I did several years ago, called Cee’s Compose Yourself Lesson (CCYL).  This is not a challenge, but I suggest you play with new ideas or ways of looking at taking photos.  Hopefully this will fill your day with a little excitement and joy.  Please feel free to play along and join in the fun.

Harmonious Colors

This week I will attempt to take more of the mysteries out of color and help you make sense of why your photos work with some colors and don’t work with other colors.  If you were to look up “harmonious colors” you are likely to get an array of various color combinations.  Color theory just seems to keep getting more and more complex.

Notice the chain on the bottom they are considered harmonious.

In this series I’m really showing you two forms of color combinations.  This time we’ll talk about harmonious colors, that are adjacent to each other on the color wheel. Next time I will address opposing colors, which are opposite to each other on the color wheel.

Harmonious color schemes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. They usually match well and create a more serene photo. You can use only two or three colors as long as they are next to each other on the color wheel.

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 show my point.

Why should this be important to you as a photographer?  Sometimes it can help you decide on how to crop or process a picture.  It can help you choose what to keep in or take out to create the “feel” of the photo that you would like to give your viewer.

I thought the colors of the doors and in the windows were interesting.

I could have gone a number of different ways with this. I liked that door and window colors were all harmonious, so I cropped this photo a couple of different ways which highlight the doors and their harmonious colors.  Which one do you prefer?  Just like last week there is no right or wrong answer.

Crop 1

Crop 2

The other way this information can help you is in setting up a photo.  For example, if you are taking pictures of people outdoors, think about the color of their clothes versus the background you’ll have them against.

A few things to note if you want the people in your photo to blend in with their surroundings, think ahead to where you are photographing them, then ask them to wear harmonious colors.  Greens, khaki, tans, and browns are more likely to blend in with wooded surroundings.  That creates a more natural looking photograph but it might not show the person off the best.

Chris took this photo of me in 2006 with a small Sony Digital camera.  I just happened to be wearing an outfit that worked well with where I am standing in this photo.  I’m beside a tall tree, with a fallen old growth tree behind me.  That makes my pants blend in well with the darker background.  My sweatshirt happened to be green which matched the moss and lichen around me.  And my hair just happened to fit the color and shape of the trees in the background.

Now if you are wanting the people to stand out from the background, white or black usually works.  Bright reds, oranges, and purples work well, too, for most outdoors photos.  Unless of course you are in a red tulip field or something.

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.

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

Purples and Magentas

Pink and Orange

Blue, Teal and Green


Yellows and oranges


I’ve gathered a list of challenges and their hosts.  So if you know a challenge host, please direct them to my blog.  Feel free to contact me anytime.  I hope everyone will be able to use my lists.

Qi (energy) hugs


5 replies »

  1. Hi Carol, you are talking about art and colors and not photography and colors. Terms are switched around. That’s why I put harmonious in the title too.


  2. So much to digest Cee 🙂 This is a great post with examples that are easy for any one to follow. You were the forest x


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