How to Capture the Color of the Year in Photographs

Did you know that every year the Pantone Corporation chooses a Color of the Year? I didn’t until recently, so I kind of got to wondering how they make their selection. Is it arbitrary? Turns out, no. Pantone apparently spends months analyzing worldwide color influences from things like the entertainment industry, traveling art collections, new artists, popular travel destinations, technology, and even upcoming major sports events. In a way, they don’t choose the color; they notice it. The 2013 Color of the Year is emerald. Incidentally, emerald is also the birthstone for the current month. So, with spring in full swing, it seems like a good time to talk about photographing the color green. I’m already noticing a lot more “green” photography from Lawrence Camera customers sharing their images on our Facebook page.

Pantone Color of the year for photography

Photo by Linda Shannon-Morgan

Pantone COlor of the Year in Photographs

Photo by Jim Gaston

Pantone Color of the Year in Photographs

Photo by Patty Miller

If you’d like to join the party, here are some helpful hints for photographing the color green:

  1. Go with complementary colors. You can make green really pop by pairing it with reds, purples, and/or pinks. For nature photography, you don’t need to look far: Mother Nature is very generous in providing complementary colors! Keep in mind that green is a receding color, so if you pair it with an advancing color like yellow or red, it can appear to recede into the background. Pairing advancing and receding hues can add great depth to a photograph.
  2. Go monotone. Showcase the color’s different tonal shades. One way to do this is to incorporate a reflection of your subject using something other than a mirror so that you get the suggestion of the same green but not the same exact green. Of course, Mother Nature is also generous here by providing lots of different greens in addition to actual shade, as in tree shade.
  3. Use a polarizing filter. A polarizing filter increases color saturation and can help your greens (and blues) appear more vibrant. Go easy, though. A sapphire noon sky or blindingly green foliage can make photos appear downright unrealistic.
  4. Beware of color casting. If there’s a lot of green in a scene, be vigilant. The brain makes adjustments so that the eyes don’t see the resulting color cast that the camera will capture. Try custom white balance, or fix the casting later using photo-editing software like Photoshop.
  5. Shoot slightly under exposure. Shooting slightly under-exposure can create more vivid colors in your photos. Green has a large range in brightness values—one of the largest of all hues—and is the hue to which the human eye is most sensitive. That is, our eyes can detect the huge variety of green tones created by different brightness values. Take advantage!
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