The Power of Color and Negative Space

posted on 4th of october, 2010

Nothing brings power and emotion to a photo as well as bold, saturated color. Photographers capturing photos with this type of color are praised for the mastery of their images. But just capturing bold color is not enough alone to make a powerful photo. The purpose of this blog is to discuss just one color technique that will immediately improve your photographs: using complementary colors and negative space.

Pete Turner, Eric Meola, Jay Maisel and Al Satterwhite are just a few renown professional photographers that use complementary colors and negative space in their images. To understand what I am talking about let's start with a discussion of complementary colors first.

The theory of complementary colors is simple. Consider a color wheel.

In color theory, two colors of light are called complementary if, when mixed in the proper proportion, they produce a neutral color (grey, white, or black). To simplify what this means, look at a standard color wheel. The colors that are opposite or nearly opposite of each other are complementary colors.

Here are some examples of images with complementary colors:

Orange and Blue.

Red and Green.

Blue and Yellow.

Green and Purple

Notice how in the example photos these colors are not only used but also dominate the entire photograph. Doing this creates a dynamic image. But we can do better. To do this let's add some negative space (a/k/a black) into a photograph containing complementary colors. Here are some examples:

The photo above of the red car and green background has some negative space in it.

Here is another of Red and Green with negative space.

Blue and yellow (gold) with negative space. And another with similar colors.

Green and Purple with negative space.

Now I realize that everyone is different. Not everyone will agree that these example photos are "great" or even "good." However, the impact of these photos using complementary colors and negative space far exceeds most of the photos that are uploaded by the thousands here at Dreamstime.

Consider that each of the photos used in this blog to demostrate this technique has sold well. Since our goal here at Dreamstime is to sell our images, that fact alone is something to think about.

So next time you are shooting photos to upload here at Dreamstime, try taking some photos with complementary colors and negative space to add to your portfolio rather than the same "isolated on white background" photos that we see so often. Maybe by using this color technique you too can create a winner.

Good luck and I hope to see you out shooting!

Comments (17)

Posted by Tan510jomast on October 29, 2010
i always thought that blue is a color that attracts buyers. perharps it's due to the blue sky, blue sea, etc..
Posted by Gussmann on October 16, 2010
realy good pictures
Posted by Iwhitwo on October 10, 2010
Thanks for sharing this interesting info, much appreciated!
Posted by Onime on October 10, 2010
Interesting article.
Posted by Miele on October 08, 2010
Very interesting. Thank you for share.
Posted by Davulcu on October 08, 2010
A great article , thanks alot. Very usefull.
Posted by Tcj2020 on October 07, 2010
Thanks for the great article :)
Posted by Inganielsen on October 07, 2010
Great blog, thank you!
Posted by smartview27 on October 07, 2010
Interesting information.
Posted by Preckas on October 07, 2010
I actually use this technique when I paint but it never crossed my mind (shame on me) to use it in my photos! Thanks :)
Posted by Almaterra on October 06, 2010
Thanks, I'm going out! Great blog!
Posted by Gmargittai on October 05, 2010
There is a lot of material about complementary colors out there, and it gets complicated, but this article in its shortness manages to make the points in a very clear and practical manner. The examples are good and to the point. Very good article.
Posted by Sobek85 on October 05, 2010
Nice images :-)
Posted by Laurasinelle on October 05, 2010
Thanks for share this article, its very useful!
Posted by Rzs on October 05, 2010
It's such an informative article about complementary colors. They do make a great impression on the eye!
Posted by Mariaam on October 05, 2010
Thanks very much for this wonderful article!
Posted by Meryll on October 05, 2010
Yes , colour counts! Thanks for the great topic and the article.

Comments (17)

This article has been read 3276 times. 11 readers have found this article useful.
Photo credits: Andrea Volpicelli, Crystal Craig, Lane Erickson, Nikita Rogul, Photowitch, Saniphoto, Shuttlecock, Nikhil Gangavane, Yakobchuk.

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