Color Analysis

To better see color within an image it can help to abstract it. By de-emphasizing an image’s representational qualities you can more easily direct your attention to the color relationships within it. In short, you can see them better because you’re not distracted by other concerns.
Using Photoshop, there are many ways to modify an image in order to better reveal it’s color structure.

You can blur an image. Blurring an image reduces detail so that you can more easily see the basic composition and the color relationships within it, without getting hung up on the details. (Duplicate the background layer and apply the filter Gaussian Blur.)

Blur an image substantially and you can reduce an image to a field of color. Compositional elements are significantly downplayed, leaving pure color. (Duplicate the background layer and apply the filter Gaussian Blur with a stronger setting.)

Pixellate an image and you can reduce an image to blocks of color. Composition is eliminated while contrast between colors is more pronounced than in a flat field of color. (Try Filter: Pixellate: Mosaic. This works best for lower resolution files or copies of files.)

Average an image and you can reduce all the colors in an image to one. (Duplicate the Background Layer and apply the filter Average – found under Blur.) This often confirms the dominant color in a composition. Well balanced color photographs containing a variety of hues tend to average towards gray.)
While accents and other important colors can also be used, the dominant color is an excellent choice to further analyze color relationships in an image using Blend Modes. With this technique you can see the variety found in the separate components of color within an image – Luminosity, Saturation, Color, and Hue. (Change the Blend Mode of the averaged layer to the desired color component.)

With a Blend Mode of Hue, all values in an image will be driven to the same hue. This will help you see variety in luminosity and saturation more clearly.

With a Blend Mode of Saturation, all values in an image will be driven to the same saturation. This will help you see variety in luminosity and hue more clearly.

With a Blend Mode of Color, all values in an image will be driven to the same hue and saturation. This will help you see variety in luminosity (the tonal structure) more clearly. (This variant is often the most useful as it is the easiest to interpret. With repeated analysis of many different images, you’re likely to note that images with less variety in hue and saturation (particularly neutral ones) will require more luminosity contrast to have impact. By the same token, images with a great deal of variety in hue and saturation will often appear overly harsh with excessive contrast.)

With a Blend Mode of Luminosity, all values in an image will be driven to the same luminosity. You’ll eliminate contrasts in value which will help you see variety in hue and saturation more clearly.
This type of analysis will better reveal the color relationships at work within an image. You can use the information you’ve gathered by analyzing color relationships in an image not only to better understand it but also to make predictions about how you might improve them.
Increasing contrast in one or more of the elements of color (hue, saturation, luminosity) will increase separation in a composition; conversely, decreasing contrast will create greater unity.
Typically, well structured images use a large amount of contrast in one color component, a medium amount of contrast in a second component, and a small amount of contrast in a third component.
Read more with my color theory ebooks.
View more in my color DVDS.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Graphing Color

Graphing color can help you identify colors more specifically and understand relationships between color better. One way to graph color is to use the Color Sampler Tool in Photoshop in combination with the Apple color picker.
To access the Apple color picker choose Photoshop: General Preferences and change Color Picker from Adobe to Apple and click OK. To see the new the color picker click on Set Foreground Color or Set Background  Color icon in the Tool bar.
Unlike the Adobe color picker, the Apple color picker is a color wheel. Creating and using color wheels to describe color and plot color relationships is a time honored tradition dating back to Leonardo DaVinci. Some of the most famous color wheels were created by Newton, Goethe, and Munsell. The Apple color picker is an additive color wheel where complements are defined as red and cyan, green and magenta, and blue and yellow.
You can sample any color in an image and find its position on the Apple color wheel.  Using the Eyedropper Tool, sample a color in a composition. Then click on the Set Foreground Color icon. The Apple color wheel will appear and a small circle will plot the sampled color. You can make a record of this chart by taking a screenshot of the color wheel (caps lock, Shift, Command, 4). This will create a PDF document on your desktop, which can be opened in Photoshop.
You can combine multiple sample points into a single chart by taking multiple screenshots, opening them in Photoshop, and combining them. Drag the Background layer from one document into another and give it a meaningful title.  Make sure the two layers are registered with one another. Then, mask off everything on the top layer except the circle identifying the color on the color wheel, the triangle identifying it’s luminosity on the slider to the right of the color wheel, and a portion of the color bar above the color wheel. You’ve just graphed the two colors on the Apple color wheel. You can do this with as many colors as you desire.
Once colors have been graphed you will be able to identify a variety of relationships between colors, both colors that exist in a composition and colors that do not.
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Unknown Patagonia – Free eBook – Linde Waidhofer

Linde Waidhofer has released her latest book – Unknown Patagonia – available in hardcover or as a free ebook.
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Read more on Outdoor Photographer.
Download Unknown Patagonia here.
You’ll also find 6 other free ebooks of her beautiful landscape photography.

Learn more about Linde Waidhofer here.
Find out about my Patagonia digital photography workshop here.

The Temperature of Color – Warm or Cool

An essential quality of color is temperature. Temperature can be used to attain a color balance. Temperature can be used to enhance spatial relationships within an image. Temperature can be used to elicit psychological responses within the viewer. Understanding and exploring the dynamics of temperature in color can benefit any visual artist.
There are physical characteristics of color linked to temperature. The color temperature of light (Kelvin degrees) is determined by measuring a black body radiator (an object heated so that it emits light). As the physical temperature of the object rises, color transitions from red (long wavelengths – low energy) to blue (short wavelengths – high energy) through ROYGBIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet). When it comes to light sources, physically, blue is warmer than red.
There are also psychological qualities of color linked to temperature. Psychologically, blue is cooler than red. These associative qualities of color with regard to temperature are almost universally accepted. This is due in large part to our physical environment – water is blue, plants are green, sunshine is yellow, fire is red.
Using the qualities of one sense (touch) to describe the qualities of another (sight) can be a tenuous affair and may lead to ambiguity and confusion. The more precise a language is the more useful it is. The language of HSL (hue, saturation, luminosity) is a very precise language. When using the language of HSL, hue values mark a position measured in degrees on a color wheel. A circle has 360 degrees, so the scale is 0 – 359.
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