If you have never experimented with the color filters on your camera or photo editor, now is the time to try this useful exercise.
You have already chosen a specific photographic subject, but you have to determine what your are trying to say with that subject.
Whether it’s line, shape, or color that you are trying to emphasize, one has to maintain dominance.
In this demonstration, we will be covering color filters and how they affect the look and feel of the photograph.
Example #1: Bubble Landscape (Red)
Here is a an example of a photo which I have previously featured on this blog:
Bubble Landscape (Red). originally featured a bright swatch of red that led the eye into the picture, but the color was a little dull. After adding a small concentration of additional red using the color saturation filter, the subject of the photo comes to life as the plastic bubble texture appears to be floating over a brilliant red plane. The unusual texture coupled with the intense hue create a decidedly modern statement. As you can see, color is the dominant factor in this photograph, but let us examine how the look and feel of this same picture can change when we remove the red color that originally drew us in.
In this next example of the same picture, all of the color has been removed from the picture to create a high contrast, black and white monochrome version. When the color disappears, our focus is centered on the lines, forms and values present. Now the photo has an interesting, conceptual, almost industrial feel. Form is dominant, line follows. Notice how the repetitive forms of the bubbles create rhythm.
In the third example we will move on to the sepia filter to see how it effects the picture. The sepia filter gives the photograph an antique feel that seems in conflict with the modern lines and forms. Instead of looking like a piece of metal or glass, the sepia lends itself to a more scientific interpretation. The photographic slide feels more like a cropped petri dish or a sample of the eggs or scales of a 19th century specimen. Again, form is dominant.
For this last sample I used a concentrated cyan blue. Form is still strong, but once again, color becomes the main focus of the photograph. The cool, cyan blue reminds us of the ocean. The small plastic bubbles suddenly have a new meaning as they gradually begin to take on the appearance of a school of jellyfish swimming in unison.
Example #2: Ornamental Op Landscape (Rose)
If you have been following this blog, you will immediately recognize this picture:
Line, Shape and Form work together, but color steals the show. The metallic green half sphere in the middle of the design seems to bust forth as brilliant oranges, greens and magentas radiate from it’s center. It’s the color that draws you into the picture. The photograph has a floral theme even though the subject of the photo is not a flower. Color saturation was used to slightly intensify the color.
When we strip the photograph of it’s color, we begin to notice the difference that it makes on the way the same subject is interpreted. Now, the object looks like a large metallic eye, staring intensely at the viewer. While it still has somewhat of a floral look and feel, an uneasy surrealist/sci-fi effect is immediately attached to the object. High-contrast monochrome (black and white) has been used for decades, but your subject will help you to determine whether you feel that monochrome is appropriate for your photography theme.
A sepia filter is then added to the monochrome and the photograph looks as though it were taken in the later part of the 19th century. The unusual subject looks like the eye of an unknown cryptid (unclassified creature), perhaps a once thought extinct species of fish. As we have discussed before in the previous example above, sepia added to a photograph immediately appears to give it an antique feel that sends us mentally and visually back to the era of the birth of photography.
Finally, we end with a cyanotype blue filter which makes us think of the regular, geometric shapes of water crystals or snow flakes. The icy, rich cyan blue also mimics the effect of looking into a well. The repetitive lines, and shapes pull us into its’ unknown depths.
I chose the vivid color version of both of these photos, because I wanted to draw the viewer in with color first as many people have an immediate, emotional attachment and reaction to certain colors. Most people are not as attached or attracted to common everyday objects as they are to people, pets and favorite locations. The challenge of every abstract (non-representational) artist, particularly photographers, is to develop people’s interest in things that they would ordinarily dismiss. So drawing people in with dramatic color helps to create interest were there is none.
The other choices that we have covered are certainly viable options for both abstract and representational photographic subjects. It all depends on what you are trying to convey to the viewer. Is there an underlying theme to your work? This information is important to consider as you compose and edit each picture as well as entire essays.