Painters and designers have used the art of colour theory in their craft for centuries. Colour photography didn’t really get started until only a few decades ago but we are catching up fast on how to use colour to draw the attention of the eye of the viewer.

We can direct where someone looks and in what order they see things buy the combinations of colours that we use.

Become the director and show them where to look.

Take this image of this very cold little red bird. The red colour grabs us straight away and makes us look at the bird before anything else in the image.

Photo by Ray Hennessy on Unsplash

It is using colour to direct where we look first. Here is another example. Again the red color gets out attention before anything else.

Photo by Geran de Klerk on Unsplash

and here we have the yellow being the first thing we see.

Photo by Andreas P. on Unsplash

Now I have made this pretty easy to see because the colour is also against very simple dark or light backgrounds without lots of other colours or elements to distract you. But how about this one? Which of these colours stand out the most to you?

Photo by Hope House Press on Unsplash

and here is another very busy scene, but what does your eye go to first?

Photo by Tobias Zils on Unsplash

Add symbolism and mood

Colour can also be used symbolically.  Keep in mind different cultures can have different meanings for colour so you need to be mindful of this when using colour in general. This also gives us the ability to use colour for symbolism. So colour has more to it than just catching the eye.

Can you see how the following image uses green seedlings to symbolize growth?

Photo by Daniel Hjalmarsson on Unsplash

Thanks to the editing capabilities of the digital age, we can recolour image, or tint image to give mood. We can remove and add elements and colours into images. We are only held back by our own skill level and imagination.

Check out how this image has beautiful warm golden hues to it. the edit is very warm and gives mood to the image.

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

And this one that emphasises the cold by using the blue tones.

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Use colour to attract the right demographic.

There have been studies done that demonstrate that different people are drawn to different colours at different times in their lives. For instance, young children like vibrant bright colours.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The older you get the more you like gentle relaxing or sophisticated colours and tones. If we are designing images for purpose then we need to consider the colour tones. Think about colours that will draw the eye of the viewer and their age and stage of life and attract the right viewers to our images.

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash


Colour is just one of many elements that we can use in our images to engage the viewer. Consciously using colour will enhance your photography and lift your skill level. Lets recap on the important point here.

  • Colour catches the eye so you can use it to direct where you want people to look
  • Tones in an image can give it a sense of mood.
  • Think about your demographic, what colours appeal to them?

We love to give credit where credit is due and we love using for images. Here is a list of images sources from this post.

Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

Unsplash photographers used in this post:

Peter Hershey

Ray Hennessy

Geran de Klerk

Andreas P.

Hope House Press

Tobias Zils

Daniel Hjalmarsson

Austin Neill

Markus Spiske