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creating color compositions with flowers

Black and White flower with hint of color

Creating with Color

By: Barbara Ellison

October 28, 2016

An important part of creating a botanical photograph with impact is one of the areas that people often ignore – COLOR. The use of color in your floral images can help create mood, vibrancy, electricity or tension. Choosing the soft pastel palette can create a restful, peaceful feeling.  It can create a calmness that allows a respite for your eye, a certain soothing of the soul.


Bold, exciting color combinations attract immediate attention.  In this case, the color combination becomes vital to the look of the image.  The color vibrancy will catch your attention, and hold it there as you examine the bracts, sepals and petals of the flower.


To understand color and its use in photography, you need to understand the color wheel used by artists. You can use the color wheel to create color, as in working with pastels on watercolor paper. Noticing the relationship of the colors to one another, as in which ones lie next to each other or opposite of each other on the wheel, can tell you a lot about combining color as an important element in the botanical portrait.

For great “pop” with the image, you can choose to include flower colors that are opposite on the wheel – known as complimentary colors. This is best typified by relating the simple red poinsettia put out in the home over the holidays. You may enjoy the cream or pink colored bracts, but the plant that jumps out at you in the room is the red poinsettia.


Even when the colors are muted, complimentary colors still have impact.


The deep colors of the water lily become an important part of the image because they are complimentary colors.


In this image of the hydrangea, the background color of yellow is as vital to the overall image as the color of the vase. Color would not have had the same impact if the background wall was painted white.

Sometimes the color of the flower or arrangement can detract from the image.  In the case of the camellia in an antique vase, the yellow and pink combo atop a black and white piano falls flat. Converting the image to black and white, then adding a specially designed tone that I call buttercup, is a better choice.

In the case of the rose bucket in Paris, the surrounding area was cluttered with unimportant elements. I wanted the viewer’s eye to go directly to the roses on the chair.


Rendering the image to black and white, then selectively erasing that layer to reveal the color behind it, allows your eye to instantly notice the subject – roses on a folding chair.


Objects in color will be noticed first when examining a photo. By converting the image to black and white, then removing the layer to reveal the color of the flower, you are directing the eye to zero in on your subject.


As you can see, color or lack of color can become a major part of the image, as important as the flower itself.


The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.