What is Color Theory?

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Duration: 7:20

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You have a good sense of color, and you know how to spot a beautiful color combination in nature. A pine woods scene, a splash of wildflowers, or a stretch of prairie grass. This brings up the question, what is color theory? In this premium video lesson, our expert David Johnston gives you ideas on using this technique.

Enter the color wheel, the key to what is color theory. In post production, David explains the color wheel which shows the various colors in the spectrum. Colors near to one another, like red, yellow and orange can enhance a color composition. This can create a peaceful feeling. But what is color theory when it comes to colors opposite one another?

David illustrates with his photo taken in the Rocky Mountains, orange rock face, blue stream with gray rocks, and the greens of surrounding pines. This is a high energy composition with its array of dynamic striking colors to elicit emotions. He demonstrates with his moody image of angry gray skies above a red rock mountain valley. These colors fall on opposite sides of the color wheel.

When you first enter a scene, ask yourself what is color theory? Do you want to capture a calm scene, a blending of greens in the forest floor, or capture instead a scene with opposite colors, sunny sky over a blue lake? David rarely plans for these visual moments, but instead has learned to recognize the concept of what is color theory when he is in the field or in the editing suite.

When you are in the field, you might want to experiment with a variety of natural colors. Remember – when it comes to color combinations, you are creating a feeling. In this premium video lesson, Outdoor Photography Guide’s David Johnston demonstrates how to use colors to your advantage and answers the question, “what is color theory?”