Xpert Advice: Less is More – Using Color Effectively in Portraits

If you look at the work of some of the master portrait photographers, you’ll notice that much of their work tries to keep the use of color very minimal. Why? Portraiture is a type of photography that involves putting an emphasis on a person or thing and when the colors in the scene are very complicated, the scene can be distracting to the viewer. In fact, specific films were developed to create better skin tones and colors for portraiture. Some of the best from Fujifilm were Astia and Fujifilm Pro400H.

So how do you make that happen in-camera?

To make a man look more elegant, it's not only all about the attire but it's also about the specific pose. Have him shift his weight depending on which shoulder is the higher one. The lower shoulder should be bright forward more and the head should be tilted slightly.

To make a man look more elegant, it’s not only all about the attire but it’s also about the specific pose. Have him shift his weight depending on which shoulder is the higher one. The lower shoulder should be bright forward more and the head should be tilted slightly.

First off, look at the subject matter and start by considering three big factors: the colors in the background, their skin tones, and the color of whatever they’re wearing. Then consider how far away in the RGB spectrum they are from one another. By that, know that blue on blue doesn’t exactly work so well unless there’s a specific point on contrast in the light. Similarly, a person wearing green when there is a green background can be very tough to work with unless there is a specifically different shade of green being worn to add contrast to the scene. Each of these colors should have a fair amount of contrast from one another. Luckily, Fujifilm’s lenses are quite contrasty. Using something like the 90mm f2 can sometimes help.

Be sure to really keep colors in mind when it comes to working with makeup too!

So how do you create even more contrast in the scene? You can start out by using the Astia and Pro film simulations on your Fujifilm camera. But in addition to that, try to find or create light that renders the brightest of the brights and the darkest of the darks. This contrast will help create varying shades that these film simulations are designed to take specific advantage of when it comes to rendering the look of an image.

Do note that too much contrast may make the scene undesirable and the key part of this is to find contrasting colors in just the right shades to make the portrait subject really pop out from the background. Combine this with effective use of depth of field techniques and you’re bound to really make something work.

Xpert Advice is a monthly collaboration between the Phoblographer and Fujifilm designed to teach you photography tips and tricks in a bite-sized package