How to Achieve Color Harmony in a Portrait Studio

Published: April 25, 2022
Photos of Christine at Lake Rock Studio In Little Rock Arkansas

How to Achieve Color Harmony in a Portrait Studio

How to Achieve Color Harmony in a Portrait Studio

Achieving color harmony is an important part of shooting beautiful portrait photography, and it doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, you can use this simple guide to achieve stunning results every time you shoot. You’ll find all the information you need on color harmony, including the best ways to apply it in your portrait studio and how to tell when it’s working or not working, in the following article.

What Is Color Harmony?


Color harmony is just as important for portrait studios as it is for interior design. The key lies in selecting colors that complement each other and, when used together, create an atmosphere of calm and relaxation. An analogous color scheme (or triad) uses colors that are adjacent to each other on a color wheel; complementary colors sit opposite one another on a color wheel, and split-complementary colors use both a primary color and its adjacent secondary shade. Here’s how they work: Red and green are complementary colors because they sit directly across from each other on a color wheel. Purple and yellow make up a split-complementary color scheme because purple is made by mixing red and blue—which means yellow sits between them on a color wheel.
At Lake Rock Studio we use this in our Studio and make sure every time we are working right!

Key Elements of an Effective Subject Outfit


It’s best for you and your subject if you coordinate their outfit with your background. This creates an effect where it looks like your subject is just one part of an overall colorful scene. If your background is monochromatic, try adding one bright element like a flower or necklace to match their shirt. Or, try adding pops of color throughout multiple parts of their outfit. Remember, coordination is key! Mixing elements that contrast can look very cool in some cases as well, but you’ll want to make sure it all still comes together harmoniously by keeping colors complementary (orange and blue make green; red and green make brown). Study up on traditional color schemes or just be creative!

Choosing Colors for Backgrounds


There are no hard and fast rules for background color, but there are some guidelines that can help you achieve balance. When planning your portrait studio, consider using complementary colors. Complementary colors sit opposite each other on a color wheel, like red and green or blue and orange. Using them together creates a sense of harmony and will add interest to your space without overpowering your subjects or their clothes. If you’re looking for an even bolder look, opt for an opposing pair: purple with yellow or blue with orange, for example. Pairing up contrasting colors—red with green, blue with orange—is another way to make a statement. This approach is more daring than complementary colors because it contrasts not only hues but also warm and cool tones. Be careful when pairing up such starkly different shades; they tend to compete against one another instead of creating harmony. Still unsure which combination is right for you?

Complementary Colors


If you’re planning on shooting with our colorful backdrops for your portraits, it’s important to understand complementary colors. We use complementary colors when we want an element in our design to really pop, or if we want to add emphasis and intrigue. To achieve balance and harmony within your studio. Here are some examples of complementary color combinations: red/green, blue/orange, yellow/purple.

Analogous Colors


Another method of creating color harmony is by selecting analogous colors. Analogous colors are those that sit next to each other on a color wheel. For example, red, orange, and yellow would be analogous because they’re all found next to each other on a traditional twelve-spoke color wheel. An easy way to find analogous colors is by using Adobe’s Kuler or another site like it; both help create palettes that use analogous tones for their underlying color schemes.

Four-Color Compound Schemes and Variations


One simple way of creating harmony is with a four-color compound scheme. That’s just what it sounds like one color plus its three opposites on the color wheel. Using an analogous color scheme gives you a group of colors that are related, but not exactly alike. One classic combination is blue and orange (blue-green, aquamarine, and orange). You can further refine your compound scheme by choosing complementary colors for accent items like flowers or jewelry. Avoid using green with blue (the photo studio above does have green accents, but they’re actually intended as Easter eggs rather than formal elements). Other ways to achieve harmony are to create subtle contrasts using shades or tints of your colors; instead of bright orange and bright blue, choose warm oranges and blues.

Monochromatic Schemes and Variations


The most basic color scheme is monochromatic, with one dominant color that dictates your color choices for everything from decor to furniture and fabrics. This makes for an easy-to-consult palette (with no need for swatches or dye tests) that allows you total control over all aspects of your design.

Triadic Color Schemes and Variations


The Triadic color scheme is a variation of both complementary and split-complementary color schemes. In its basic form, it features three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. For example, red, yellow, and blue or green, purple, and orange. These hues will always be evenly spaced on your color wheel—no matter what type of triadic color scheme you’re using (more on that below). As you can see below, these triads aren’t just limited to primary colors; they can also include secondary or tertiary hues.

Split-Complimentary color schemes for Portrait photos


For those wanting a little more drama in their portrait lighting, it’s best to use what’s called split-complimentary color schemes. In these schemes, you choose two complementary colors and then add one of each on either side of your subject. The result is bolder than using complementary colors—and easier to create than triadic or tetradic color schemes. For example, if we take our previous example of red and green as complementary colors, adding yellow on either side creates a split-complementary scheme: red + green + yellow = orange + blue. Using pure hues will create a brighter effect than using tints or shades (i.e., adding white or black).

The Influence of Complementary Colors on Human Behaviour


Historically, complementary colors were believed to have an influence on human behavior—green and red would encourage anger, for example. In modern days, color psychologists say that while complementary colors do create high contrast they don’t necessarily evoke intense emotions or prompt action. This is because most color pairings have been used so much in branding over time that they aren’t seen as opposites anymore. For example, think of Coca-Cola red and white cans. These are technically considered complimentary colors but no one thinks of them as enemies; instead, it’s more likely you associate them with happiness and refreshment.

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