Colour Study: Using Colour to Communicate Warmth in Photography

Uncategorized Feb 07, 2019

“We are happy, friendly people.”

If you read that phrase and had to chose one colour that “said” that to you, what colour would you choose?

For a long time we have bought into the idea of colour psychology that certain colours universally make us as human feel a certain way. Modern research is saying that might not be as true as we think it to be. That said we think most would agree that colours do have some underlying emotional affect, it’s just largely dependent on their context.

As a photographer we make hundreds of colour and hue decisions with every shoot. We help coordinate clothing to tie in with branding logos. We adjust the White Balance of an image to make it cooler or warmer depending on the message we are intending to communicate. We change the hue slider of greens and yellows to make trees and grass more universally appealing. We have spent endless, upon endless hours, making tiny tweaks to skin tones to make sure headshot images looks truly amazing. Colour is probably the second most important factor in photography, being only proceeded by light.

So how do we use colour to help communicate emotion? Here are a few visual examples that might help you to really see how the subtlety of colour helps us convey feelings and moods.

Warm White Balance vs Cooler White Balance

In a professional headshot each client has a different feel that they need to convey that is consistent with their brand. Some brands need to feel warm and approachable, while others need to feel slightly cooler and more domineering. One of the ways we achieve this is through the use of the white balance in imagery. White balance is a delicate balance because too warm or too cool and skin tones start to look off and unnatural.

Lets show you an example.

The first image is too cool. The blue tones make the skin look funny and gives a cool unapproachable quality to the image.

The second image is too warm. It feels warm and summery, but the clients skin looks like a little orange oompah loompa and is not at all flattering.

The last image is perfect. The image is cool enough that the client appears highly professional, the skin tones are beautifully balanced and the warm smile gives an approachability to the image. If the clients brand was a more casual brand then we might have warmed the image up a tad bit, but for the needs of this client this white balance best fit their brief.


The Magenta- Green Tint can make a big difference to the feeling of an image as well. Just like White Balance works on a sliding scale going from blue to yellow, tint works on a sliding scale going from green to magenta. Lets have a look how tint can affect the mood of an image.

The first image is how the greenery looked without adjusting the tint at all.

The second image is how the green in grass, trees, and shrubbery is considered to be the most universally appealing. We tend to visually prefer our greens to be more blue and less yellow. Grass and shrubbery gives off a green colour cast that often reflects onto peoples skin giving them a sickly appearance and making blonde hair look green. Because of this we brush the green colour cast off of the skin and hair in post processing to leave the skin looking pink and healthy.

The middle image would normally be considered the ideal. However, in this case we wanted the image to have a more timeless look about it, and have all the attention be on the feather and lips. By bringing the shrubbery in the back into the same colour pallet as everything else in the image, we were able to achieve a completely different look and feel.

We hope that through these examples you can see how we use colour adjustment post processing to change and enhance the feelings that we are trying to achieve for each different client. The service that we offer our clients isn’t just about being able to take great photos through good posing and in camera light settings. Much of the work we do happens in the post processing where we are able to achieve the exact mood and feel that each client is looking for.


Life as Art is Perth’s leading Branding and Headshot Photographer. We work with our clients to bring clarity to their Branding with Beautiful, Custom Photography.



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