April 14

0 comments

Try Creating Photos with a Dominant Color Palette

By Dan

April 14, 2015


Mt. Gannett and a full moon over the Chugach Mountains, winter, AlaskaI’ve seen a few posts around the web lately featuring images that are each shot with a single color palette, where one color or color scheme dominates the majority of the image. Here’s one example of what I’m talking about.

It’s a pretty cool technique and if done well, it certainly draws the viewer in and creates an exceptionally powerful visual impact. In photography, we’re often taught to use elements of balance and contrast to create strong compositions. Black and white obviously revolves around this style, so it’s interesting to see how it applies to color photography.

MBK-AK-01390

When using color as a primary element, I usually try to incorporate a mix of hot and cool colors or colors that are complimentary to each other on the color wheel, like orange and blue, or using  a spot of red, as in this biking photo above. This helps create or enhance implied pathways that guide your viewer’s eye back and forth between elements as they explore the subject matter you’ve place in the frame.

However, as with any compositional rule, you can achieve some pretty striking results if you occasionally break this one as well. With this in mind, you can shift your way of seeing the world, which can help you break out of a creative rut.

Looking through the examples in that link I shared above got me thinking about how I use this in my own photography. I don’t know if I’m always conscious about using this approach per se, but when I browse my Lightroom catalog, I definitely see image examples that fall into that category.

I can’t say that I thought specifically about the single color technique when I shot these photos below, but it’s apparent that I do see that way, at least to some extent.

Of course, now that I’ve given it some thought, I’m sure I’ll be more conscious about this style in the future, as I’m sure you will as well. Keep this in mind and try incorporating it into your own creative photography adventures.

At the same time, look back through you own catalog. Have you used this technique before?

Here’s another blog post with more examples which illustrate this photography style.

_DSF2726Icebergs in the Knik Glacier gorgeFerns on the South Pioneer Peak Ridge Trail, Chugach Mountains, Alaska _DSF3383 ICLD-01752 Gullfoss waterfall, Iceland S0022008 _DSC3480 _DSC3239 Aerial of the Knik Glacier, in winter, Chugach Mountains, Alaska TRN-AK-02807 AK-DGSD-1652

About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 20+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.


As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.

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Terry Bourk

I have read you new book “Behind the Landscape.” I could not “put it down” meaning that I kept at it because each photo you presented/analyzed was interesting and informative. I am trying to develop an eye for composition (both the scene and the light).

Thank you! The examples you present and the suggestions are very helpful. Purple Mountains, McKinley River and Wonder Lake are fascinating.


Roger Sinclair

You have done it again! Another triumph.

Your generosity to share, the clarity of thought and concise explanation thereof is brilliant. Perhaps I should also mention the beautiful photos and the talent necessary to produce them.

Thank you, Dan.