We all know that color has its own unique meaning. It is said that red represents passion, blue represents serenity, orange represents energy… The color tone of a photo is just like the tone of a music. It influences the first impression of the audience.

Colors can not only illustrate your current mood but also tells a story. There are many techniques that professional photographers can use to edit colors in a photo. With an increasing number of photo processing apps, color editing has become so much easier. Now, simply with a click, a preset filter can be applied on the photo instantly. Regardless of how you do color editing, different color tones should be adopted according to the three aspects below.

  • The Scene
  • The Subject
  • If you want to convey any meaning

Different people may have different opinions on which is the best color style to apply on a particular photo.

Below, we list several examples of colors style which you can consider for different scenes. Note that there are no standard terms for color tones/styles. I come out with the terms myself.

Japanese Natural Style 

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Personally, this is my favourite style. As you can see from the photos above, this color style is characterised by its white/blue tint (sometimes also green tint), washed out colors (by lowering contrast and saturation ) and slightly high exposure. You can also create minor variations of this style by making it more vintage. The color tone will always give a feeling of clean, austere and eco-friendly. Because of this, I recommend using this Japanese natural style in photos where you share about :

  1. Your everyday life.
  2. Travel photos that feature simple unique things.
  3. Kids photos showing their innocence.
  4. Photos capturing about school life.

Vscocam provides many filters of this style.

HDR (High-Dynamic-Range)

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HDR is an abbreviation for High-dynamic-range. Strictly speaking, this is not a color style but a technique to process photo. The traditional way to achieve HDR effect is to capture three different types of images and merge them together to bring out amazing contrasts in your photos. However, many apps now provide an HDR filter so that you even don’t need to take three different types of images. Characterised by high contrast, HDR color tone is bright, saturated and dynamic. Because of this, this is best used in landscape photography. For instance, photos that capture beautiful sunrise/sunset, roaring waves or the immense sky. Sometimes, HDR is also used in architectures photos.

Snapseed has a very good filter for HDR.

Retro/Vintage Look/Film

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Many apps have different filters for retro, vintage and film style. Most of the apps has the same style but with minor variations. With slightly low brightness, shaded color (normally yellow), and vignette/grain, this style brings people back to the old days. It reminds people of those classical movies which are artistic and atmospheric. Also, this retro/vintage look is most popular among wedding, fashion and travel photos.

Instagram has many filters of this type.

Black and White

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In the old days, black & white photos are more popular than colored photos due to its cheap price. Although colored photos become the norm nowadays, sometimes people will still appreciate the beauty of black & white. Apparently, the photo of this style only has black, white and grey. It removes the distractions and clashes that too many colors may introduce. Black & white style requires very good control of lighting. A good black and white photo is one that shadows, highlights, mid tone, lines and textures complement and interact with each other in a harmonious way. It is commonly used in fashion photography to present a sharp contrast or in portrait photography that shows vicissitudes.

Instagram has 3 different filters: moon,  willow, inkwell. You can try explore more and find out their minor differences.

Summer 

I name it summer because this color style is bright and warm just like summer. “Bright”, “lively”, “colorful” and “dynamic” are words that come to my mind. Photos of this style always bring people happiness, joy and bubbliness. It is recommended to be used in fashion, travel and food photography.

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In a nutshell, different color styles can be applied together in some way. The point is to let the color illustrate the feelings you want convey to your audience. You can always mix/invent a color style that best convey your feelings in a photo. Remember, don’t ever be restricted to conventions!

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