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Quick Photography Tips
Seeing Red

How to work with an intense color

Red evokes power and energy, and is full of symbolism for many cultures. As an element in a photograph, it attracts the viewer’s attention.


A photo that’s full of red will stand out, among other photos. A spot of red within a photo of otherwise muted colors will scream out at the viewer, as if to say, “look at me!”

Red can be found on vehicles, signs, painted on walls, on berries, and on streetlights. Red will seem to vibrate against bright blue. This can create an exciting visual tension if done right, or it can give the viewer a headache if done wrong.



This pattern of red umbrellas at a farmer’s market in Europe really stands out. Photo © istockphoto.com / Matthew Ragen

Keep in mind that a red-dominated scene may throw your camera’s auto white balance off, adding a blue or grey cast to the image. You may want to choose a white balance preset (such as “Sunlight” or “Partial Shade” as appropriate), or manually set white balance by aiming at a neutral source such as the QP Card or Lastolite Exybalance Collapsible Grey and White Disc while using your camera’s white balance control.



Red can play havoc with your digital camera if it is set to auto white balance. The original scene lost its luster, but I used Adobe Photoshop’s RAW Color Temperature settings to bring back the bold red on the side of a ship.

 

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