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How to Photograph Subtle Hues with Pastels

Updated on June 30, 2013
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Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0 | Source

You have read the explosion of colors, now the subtle hues is a theme which emphasizes using colors that do not have strong colors but are rather subtle in their color saturation such as soft pinks, yellows, reds and any pastel color schemes.

A good source of supplies and possible subjects can often be easily found at many arts & crafts stores especially near the bridal and baby shower sections. They are full of samples such as beads, feathers, artificial flowers, other art work and colored napkins.

Because these shades are rather soft and do not easily capture an audience's gaze, they should be shown in compositions similar to a thumbnail with different shades next to each other like a complimentary arrangement of flowers.

All of the same subjects that can be used to create an explosion of color can also be used in this theme assuming that you are able to obtain subjects with lighter hues. One area to gather ideas from are weddings since they mostly use pastels in their decorations and other arrangements.

Subjects that are easily obtainable for this theme are chalk sticks, colored sand, flower petals, pieces of cloth, some plush stuffed animals and so on. Like other compositions use a close up mode to keep an audience guessing at the image after the composition has brought them to it.

Doors are sometimes painted in pastels and make very good subjects. Focus on their textures and any other details including their door nobs and door knockers if they are unusual and also painted in subtle shades such as gold, silver or light chrome.

Since softer colors do poorly in attracting attention, it is best to put several distinct ones next to each other and record their image then. With strong colors it is best to use a rather powerful light source aimed directly at the subjects, with softer pastels the contrary is true. It is better to use a diffused light source and have it spread out over the entire subject to accentuate the pastel's softness.

In your subject compositions combine soft materials with hard ones to also create a variation in texture. Examples would be using flower petals, pieces of cloth, yarn and putting them next to marbles, colored glass pieces even next to water filled glasses on which one has placed a few drops of pastel or stronger food coloring. A good set up is to place marbles, or crystal rocks like the ones used for flower vases on top of pastel colored sand piles.

Other subjects which are good candidates to use are Easter eggs and baskets, a woman's finger nails with a various softer shades of nail polish, most toys and accessories used by little girls as they are often a soft shade of various pinks and soft yellows. Several types of candies come in various pastels colors, even cupcakes can be used.

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Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0 | Source

Keep in mind that photographing pastels against a stronger colored background detracts attention from the main subject and it is always a good idea to use backgrounds that are either the same shade as that of the subject or white or plain black.

Another good technique is to isolate the subjects with a narrow diffused beam of light focused on the subject but that covers the entirety of the subject as well.

You are working "against the tide" as it where and with less than ideal photogenic subjects as far as their color and appeal to audiences and working with a close up mode, thus by its composition also eliminates a lot of details further reducing the image's capture power which would be the opposite if the colors were rich and vibrant.

Photography in and off itself emphasizes color, textures and composition and all in a two dimensional medium. With muted colors you are taking the element of color and its appeal out of the equation. Therefore it is very important that one goes the extra mile in being creative with the arrangement, subject selections and compositions in order to make the images appeal to an audience and keep them interested.

Work with the textures, subtleties in shades, designs and any other variation that stands out. Angles, curves, spirals and intricate designs are all good focusing points and you should use them to your advantage.


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Phoebe Pike: Well thank you, I'm flattered

    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      6 years ago from Miami, Florida

      Lynn; way to go, just have fun and take it in

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 

      6 years ago

      At my college we had to write a lot of essays about hues and how important they are and we had to correct other people's essays... I just wish the ones I had read were half as interesting as your hub. :)

    • profile image

      Lynn S. Murphy 

      6 years ago

      I believe I did this task inadvertently with a butterfly but it worked out sooooo well. That's 3. woo hooo!!!


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