Category Archives: c – Colour relationships

Colours into tones in black-and-white

“Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.” – Robert Frank.

As mentioned earlier I have always been biased towards black and white, but have not considered the use of filters (or their digital equivalent) and the effect of that use.



Original all settings in lightroom zeroed.

I converted the image to black and white under the HSL/Colour/B&W section of Lightroom.


Conversion to black and white, note variation on colour sliders

Lightroom has, under its own pre-sets the four filters relevant to this exercise yellow, red, blue green and red.  I’ve shown in the images below the changes in the colour sliders as a result of using the pre-sets.

yellow filter

Using yellow filter in Lightroom. Yellow becomes almost white; green and red become lighter while blue appears to be disproportionately darker. The grey seems relatively  unaffected.


Using red filter in Lightroom.  The colours all become even lighter, although blue is not as affected, as does the greyscale.



Using green filter in Lightroom.  Green is slightly lighter, blue, red and yellow darker and greyscale back to normal.


Using blue filter in Lightroom. Blue becomes very light while red darkens significantly as does yellow but green is relatively unaffected.

As the course book says the exercise gives some indication of how the use of filters can accentuate an aspect of an image.  As an example I took this image on a trip to London:-



The black and white conversion does nothing to alter the overall feel of the picture:-




But when the blue filter is used notice how the skin tones change dramatically.


Blue filter applied

Of course you would need to be judicious in their use but it illustrates the impact these filters can have and it will be something I ‘ll be considering in the future.



Colour relationships

The first part of this exercise asks you to shoot three photographs illustrating the ratios outlined originally by J. W. Van Goethe based on the relative brightness of the primary and secondary colours.  He theorised that red and green were about the same brightness while orange is about twice as bright as blue and yellow about three times the brightness of violet.  It then follows that the ideal proportion of these colours in the frame follow their respective brightness where these are the two colours involved.  Thus red and green should be equal; there should be twice as much of blue than orange and three times as much violet as yellow.

I found it interesting consider how this relates to our eye being drawn to red?

Of course the question then arises how to illustrate this?  I did, both for the this exercise and the assignment, consider going out to see what I found on the streets.  Some of the examples of this are shown in the next blog entry.  However I revised my thinking to a more personal subject – the drugs in the Brown household:-


Red:green 1:1



Orange:blue 1:3


Yellow:violet 1:3

For the second part of the exercise you are asked to produce three or four images that have a personal appeal as to the colour combinations therein.  I thought about the colour in our garden and again some of the results are shown in the next entry.  What sprang to mind was to illustrate an old childhood memory the subject of which fortunately still exists.  These are the ribbons from the first world war medals given to my grandfather.  They are not exceptional in terms of rarity or anything like that, but nevertheless they used to (along with the medals themselves) fascinate me as a child.  On considering this exercise it occurred to me how the colours in these ribbons are almost garish and clearly designed to be very visible when worn:-


Note how in this ribbon the orange is the dominant colour and its area exceed that of the combined blue stripes



The red and the blue are not complimentary here but I like the gradual merge (possibly caused by age) into the white.













A real mash up of colour here creating on close inspection an almost psychedelic effect, but clearly very noticeable when shown against a plain black or dark blue background.












Slightly more subdued but effective in that it has an approximation of three of the colours on colour circle albeit in a different order.


Finally there is a good example of complimentary colours with the red and the green being equal in area. In terms of wearing the ribbons the red would obviously be a strong visual marker.


The combined effect. I’m not sure in which order they are meant to be, but collectively they make a strong visual.