Useful Photography Tip #166: Keep Colors in a Portrait Very Simple

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One of the best things that you can do to make your portrait subject stand out more in a scene is to use color coordination. Backgrounds can always be some sort of stagnant-ish color, but then focus on the wardrobe and make it work accordingly with the person’s skin tones. But more or less, try to keep the scene to three primary colors.

To do this, what I generally say is look at the color scale: ROYGBIV. In the photo above:

  • Fernando’s skin is correlated with orange/red undertones
  • Green background with some white
  • Blue tones in his clothing.

See how each of those tones are different? An image that sticks to the BIV or the ROY can sometimes be tough to make a subject really stand out unless you’ve got very effective lighting. Now, to be fair, we see all this just fine, but cameras don’t necessarily do. Adjusting the HSL of the color tones individually can also help. Saturation can really help in the same ways that it did during the film days.