PERFECT COLOR PALETTES (EASIER THAN YOU THINK!)

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NATURE NEVER LIES

FORGET STORE COLORS. MAKE YOUR OWN.

WHAT IS A COLOR PALETTE? 

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A color palette is many things to different people but for photographers it's your starting point (if you are going to do it right, and you should). It's where you start with your idea, and it's your visual road map.

A color palette Is what goes on your vision board and sent to the rest of your team. We say how high says, "Colour is one of the single most crucial elements when creating a brand. Understanding the importance and influence colour has on your branding project is key to producing a strong and cohesive identity."

Generally color palettes are based off of one family of colors. There are palettes with only shades of one color and there are palettes that have the spectrum of colors. They're used by home decorators and painters, and the good wardrobe stylists and other creatives. And they're used by photographers who want to dictate an exact color range for their team. You can't be on a different page if the colors are presented for you on a board.

Design and Promote says, "Color creates ideas, expresses messages, spark interest, and generate certain emotions." That's why color palettes are essential in your creative roadmap. It's an extra step to erase several confusing moments after the fact. Take a minute to practice this and implement color palettes into your design work. 

That's what we do, make sure that everyone knows what the goal is, including the client. In the next section you'll see how each team member uses the same color palette. 

HOW SHOULD EACH TEAM MEMBER USE THE COLOR PALETTE FOR PHOTO SHOOTS?

This is how you should use the color palettes for your photo shoot projects: Make sure every team member sees it and follows your lead as the photographer. 

  • PHOTOGRAPHER: You're the lead in the project. You pick the general direction of the shoot and it either is born from your imagination or it's something the client brings forward. The majority of times, the truth is somewhere in the middle. It's the first part of your mood board.
  • MAKEUP ARTIST: They'll likely have a lot of fun with this because nearly every makeup artist that I know of lives for color, experimental color! So while the makeup won't be an exact color of the palette, it's a solid direction for them. What you may notice is that small parts of the make up may house the colors on your palette. There could be speckles or thin lining but because makeup artists rely on color, they NEED this direction from you.
  • HAIR STYLIST: If any member of the team uses this palette the least, I would say it's the hairstylist. If they use it, it could be in the hair extensions, wig, or even hair accessories. Still give it to them and let them use their creativity. 
  • WARDROBE STYLIST: They'll use this color selection to work on the wardrobe and that's everything from main components like pant/shirt to small details like jewelry and accessories. They'll thank you for this because many times the stylist suffers the most confusion. You can say "make it playful" but that's so vague. Giving them this color palette really helps bring the vision in and narrow down the options.
  • ART DEPT: Wall colors, and vases, couches and art on the wall... props and backgrounds, all of that is based off this chart. That doesn't mean it'll be an exact match but it's the big theme and you're making sure what they pick does not clash with your creative direction.
  • CLIENT: It's their shoot ultimately. They approve the color palette because it must fit their needs. Sometimes they'll say something inspires them but it's your job to illustrate that and visualize it to the rest of the team. It's also your job to educate the client, killing the "they only push a button" stereotype. No we don't. We work hard and wake up to this stuff, eat to this stuff and sleep to this stuff. 
     

COLOR PALETTE? DOES IT HAVE ANY OTHER NAMES?

Yes, a color swatch. That's what else it's called. OK, confusion over lets keep the lesson going!

WHY MAKE YOUR OWN PALETTE?

Making your own color palette means that you're in 100% control of the images. You can say "brown pants" or you can show the colors of brown that inspire you. You can go to the store and get paint palettes or you can create your own based on an inspirational image you saw. 

As photographers we are the creators of the entire image, and I think it's great practice to have a hand in all of the creation. It's also your starting point for making the mood board for your photography project. A mood board is absolutely essential for the entire team and you can't just send them an image of a color palette. 

You'll need to incorporate the color palette into your mood board. It'll dictate everything and for that reason, I want you to have full creative control. You get that by making your own color palettes.

CAN ANYTHING BE USED FOR COLOR?

Yes, anything can be the basis of your color palette but the main objective of this article is to say that Mother Nature can do NO WRONG. Use Mother Nature! You can take a photo of a shirt and use that as the inspiration but start with nature. It doesn't have to be a beautiful expensive flower. Even the ugliest and most insignificant twig under a tree is a gorgeous color palette. A weed or a patch of dirt make a beautiful color palette (see below). Even the flower you think has only one color has many options. You use the leaf, stem, seeds, and under the petals. 

I will say this, you will never ever look at a piece of nature and think "Wow, that does not match!" - go with nature, you can't lose. This is a great exercise to not only see the beauty in all that is around us, but also lets you see that inspiration for your creative shoots is all around us! 

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Ugly weeds produce happy shades of green

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Dirt is Beautiful

Can you say any of the color shades don't match?

ONCE I FIND MY COLORS, HOW DO I USE THEM?

Once you find the source of inspiration and then define your colors within that item, you start building your greater vision. It's great that you have the color tones down, it's a solid start but hardly where you want to stop. After the color selection process, you explain to your team and client by expanding on that. Make an mood board that incorporates the colors you picked, and introduce that with other layers of your project.

For example pick location images, sample wardrobe and hair styles. Pick makeup inspiration and movement inspiration for your board. Pick models that you would love to shoot and also add them to the board. Create one big board with all of the information and send that to your team. Mood boards are the road map to a successful photo shoot!

HOW DO YOU MAKE THESE COLOR PALETTES?

You can make the color palettes that I made a few different ways. There are websites that can help you, some are awesome and some not that great. For the images in the gallery below, I've made that on photoshop. I take the eye drop tool and sample part of the source. There isn't a rule of having 3 color samples or 20. It's your project and you'll do it the way that makes sense for that project. 

Another way that you can make awesome color palettes but with less samples is a website called Canva. When you upload an image, it picks 5 of the biggest color sources and creates a palette. The downside is that you only get 5 colors to showcase your palette. The upside is that you get exact color codes for your project. THAT is golden and such a helpful resource. 

Ultimately you're the creative and need to decide which route you wish to venture. There is no right nor wrong way to do this, just what's best for you. If you want a few samples but color codes to accompany them, use Canva. If you want to have many options and make sure your favorite parts of the sample are used...make it yourself in photoshop using the eye drop tool