You may have noticed the use of complementary colours on sports jerseys—blue and orange; red and green; yellow and purple. The combining of colours that are opposites on the colour wheel creates a sense of balance and harmony. It is something to consider when taking colour photographs.
American photographer Joel Meyerowitz, who rose to prominence in the early 1960s, is one of the pioneers of colour photography. In a 2015 Huffington Post interview Meyerowitz observed, “So color was a basic force in my development and I learned, early on, that it had an emotive power that needed to be recognized and which made me become a kind of early missionary for color.” A look through his powerful photographs reveals his use of complementary colours.
Photographer Eric Kim relates on his informative blog (erikimphotography.com) how this can be put into practice, “For example, if you see a mostly cool background color (blue, purple, green)– try to wait until someone with a warm color (red, orange, yellow) shirt walks by. It can be the other way too. You can look for a mostly warm background– and wait for someone with a cool colored shirt to step into the scene.”
Photo tip: The use of mirrors or reflections can be a way to combine warm colours and cool colours in the same scene.