• Scenic Mount Sunrise and the Kancamagus Highway Ron Bowman / For the Monitor

  • Mt. Chocorua Ron Bowman / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 2/17/2021 4:31:20 PM

When you bake an apple pie, the success and quality of the pie is based on its ingredients (apples, eggs, flower, butter, sugar, cinnamon, etc.)

Photography is no different. Great photos incorporate one or more artistic elements or ingredients. By combining the right elements (ingredients), you will end up creating more artistic photos. Most professional photographers agree that artistic photos incorporate elements of color, form, moment, perspective, light, and good composition.

In this month’s lesson were going to explore the element of color. By itself, color can make an excellent photograph, and it can do this with only one color. Combinations of yellows, oranges and reds are often referred to as warm colors (like the Scenic Mount Sunrise photo) and combinations of blues and greens are often called cool colors (like the Mount Chocorua photo). Nature also makes pastel colors, which are diluted and less intense, such as the light pinks and baby blues you often see in evening and morning skies.

White light consists of three primary colors: red, yellow and blue, which when projected together, form white light. Mixing various combinations of these primary colors produce all the colors we see.

Every primary color has its complement, or opposite color. Complimentary colors (those opposite on a color wheel), like a combination of reds and blue/greens, or a combination of blues and yellows, will produce more dramatic photos due to the contrast in colors. An example of this might be a foliage scene with yellow leaves contrasted against a blue sky. Photos that display these contrasting colors will really pop. Now, take a close look at the Scenic Mount Sunrise photo. It contains the complementary colors of blues, yellows, and orange, but because this photo was taken at sunrise, the colors are more pastel and not so intense

Harmonious colors on the other hand, are similar in tone (those next to each other on the color wheel), like a combination of blues and greens in the photo of Mount Chocorua. The harmonious effect is pleasing, rather than dramatic, and allows the eye to explore other elements such as shape, texture, and form.

Artists utilize complementary and harmonious colors to create their works of art. Photographers on the other hand, don’t have as much creative latitude as artists, but the more we understand the impact color has on a photo, the more we can look for color combinations that enhance and add impact to our photos.

Next month, we’ll discuss form (lines, shapes, patterns, and texture). You may notice that most of my lessons and photos cater more to nature and landscape photography, which reflects my area of expertise. However, the lessons can be applied to all types of photography. If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

(Ron Bowman is a New Hampshire photographer, with more than 50  years of experience photographing weddings, real estate, and New England landscapes. He is a member of the Lakes Region Art Association and can be reached at You can view his work at the Lakes Regional Art Association Gallery located at the Tilton outlets and online at

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