ERIC KIM

Red and Green Composition Color Theory For Photographers

If you want more bold colors, integrate both red and green into your pictures.

Opponent based color theory. Opposing colors become more intense when placed next to one another.

According to the “opponent theory” for colors, the opposing colors, when put next to one another, will intensify both colors.

For example, two opposing colors are red and green.

Strong figure to ground: green circle against red background.
Strong figure to ground: Red circle against green background.

Red vs Green // IKKO TANAKA

I’ve been studying great art, graphic design, painting, photography, and nature —and red and green is one of the most bold and enigmatic color combinations.

Color wheel theory: Dynamic tension between opposing colors. Image from CREATIVE EVERY DAY

For example,


Red and green in art

Some examples in art:

Edouard Manet, green background and kid with red pants
The song of love, 1914 by Giorgio de Chirico. Red glove, and green ball.
Son of man by Rene Magritte, green apple with red tie.
Edward Hopper, woman in red burgundy, with green background.
IKKO TANAKA x ERIC KIM. Green vs Red

Vincent van Gogh crab, red on green.
Matisse the dance, red figures against green background
Matisse abstract, green and red
Picasso woman, red chair against green background
Harry Gruyaert. Red and green colors

Harper bazaar cover, green butterfly and red lips of woman

Red and Green by Leonardo da Vinci


Red and green in Japanese woodcut art

The Japanese did the red and green color theory well:


RED and GREEN, ERIC KIM PHOTOS

Some examples from my photos:

High angle shot of red and green crosswalk. Shibuya, Tokyo 2017. Green on bottom of the frame, and red on top-right of the frame.
Ricoh GRII x Flash, 28mm, in macro mode. Bright green tones with subtle red lips
Green hair, finger nails, red lips and warm face
Philly. Portra 400 and flash. Red hair against green background.
Beauty of red tomato soup against green background
Love our high class customers. Green and red.
Girl with red pigtails. And green background. Philadelphia, 2013
Red dot on the suit in London metro. Cherry on top is the red dot, with green lines.
Woman with hand. Green, red. Chicago, 2015
Red wall and green basket inside grocery store. Kyoto, 2017
Green beans and cauliflower cooked at home in marseille with red plate. Makes the green colors pop more.


Less obvious examples, where the red (warm color) isn’t 100% red:

Green Wall Street Photo in marseille, with red-pink color on the right of the frame.

Red, Green, Blue (RGB)

In these photos, you can see how green enhances both the red and blue colors of a picture:

Headless man with blue and red jersey. The green in the background enhances both the red and blue colors.
Green in center of the frame, and the red and blue throughout the frame.

Practical takeaways:

  1. When you have the option, try to pair both red and green together, to enhance the colors of both colors. You can do this especially if you’re doing a model shoot, and can control the outfit of your subject.
  2. If you want to stand out at a party, wear an all red and green outfit (Gucci). You will certainly catch the attention of others.
  3. When you’re designing things for graphic design, city planning, or anything that requires the attention of your viewer, pair red and green together.
  4. If you’re photographing something red, use a green backdrop. If you’re shooting something green, try experimenting using a red backdrop.

Learn more Color Theory >


More Red and green inspiration


COMPOSITION 101

Purple umbrella on the ground with diagonal yellow line. Beautiful to me.

Learn From the Masters of Composition

Sergio Larrain Compositions

Dynamic Photography Composition 101

Leading lines. ERIC KIM DYNAMIC COMPOSITION

Painting Compositions

Vermeer

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Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

Composition Theory

Dynamic low angle composition. Tokyo, 2011 by ERIC KIM

Take your composition to the next level:


Street Photography Composition 101

DYNAMIC REFLECTIONS. Man and three reflections by ERIC KIM

For distilled lessons on composition, read the free ebook: “The Street Photography Composition Manual.”

Further articles to improve your compositions in photography:

Composition Theory

Woman and door. Chiaroscuro. DYNAMIC LIGHT AND SHADOW. Hanoi, 2016 by ERIC KIM

 

Learn compositional theory:


Compositional lessons from the masters of art


Composition lectures