Colour composition and Polarised Light


Colour and light are two inseparable factors and especially for those in the field of photography. The ability to achieve a perfect composition of colour and strike a balance between colour and light always poses a challenge to many people. How well these two aspects balance largely determine the outcome of the process. This discussion looks at these two very important aspects and how once can achieve balance between them to get that perfect shot.


While every aspect of photography is important, colour and light are the most fundamental (Verity 23). Colour plays a significant role in determining the content of any picture in terms of emotions. Just by looking at the colour composition of a photograph, it is possible to easily depict the mood that the photographer intends to create.

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Every colour has a meaning and depending on how much it has been emphasized, an onlooker can easily derive a message from it. Bright colours like orange and red for instance are a depiction of happiness and excitement. Dull colours on the other hand create a refreshing, relaxing and cool mood. Colour yellow does not create excitement like red does neither is it a colour of relaxation like blue and green are. Instead, yellow brings about a feeling of warmth

Other than creation of moods, colours are also used to create certain desired effects. Depending on the angle of the camera together with the proper framing, it is easy for a photographer to draw great attention to a subject that though is brightly coloured. For example and Indian woman wearing beautifully coloured sari can have the right colours in the sari captured in such a way that the draw attention.

One can also use contrasts of colours to create dynamic patterns and designs. Colour contrasts are always catchy to the eye so that it tends to explore the various colours contrasted. Light also influences colour composition by and large. For instance on sunny day you may want to concentrate on bright colours like red and orange.

However, for a dull cloudy day a combination of saturated colours will work best. The amount of exposure that you give when taking a photograph also influences the colour composition and consequently the final product (Popular Mechanics 23). Therefore if you would like to have some colours subdues, then you may allow more light to pass. On the other hand, when intending to emphasize particular colours less light should be allowed so that such colours can stand out.


Light is said to be an electromagnetic wave that moves through vibration that could be as long as 360 degrees. By definition, light is a radiation that is electromagnetic in nature, which the human eye is able to perceive. Light travels in the form of a wave. The different speeds at which these waves of light travel are perceived as different colours by the human eye. Polarization of light refers to the direction taken the wave of light when it is vibrating.

Usually, when the wave of light is undisturbed, it tends to move and vibrate randomly. The wave of light experience constant changes as it moves buy depending on the medium through which it is passing, it may be polarized in a number of ways. One way in which light is polarized is limiting the direction of vibration so that the wave is only able to vibrate in only on direction. The outcome of such polarization is that the light gets in through a medium is not the same as the one that comes out on the end side of the medium.

Filters are responsible for polarization of light and they do son in varying ways. Some filters polarize by filtering particular colours so that they are no longer visible in the wave of light. Two filters placed together with one bring on top of the other have the effect of being opaque or transparent to light. If these filters were to be turned round, then the light passing through the filters can be sort of turned off and on.

There are those filters that are made in such a way that they do not allow transmission of light. They are known as crossed polarizers. These filters are such that when one allows light form a horizontal angel, the other allows from a vertical angle and thus preventing transmission.

Relationship between Light and Colour

Having discussed colour composition and polarization as two independent concepts let us now shift focus on the relationship that cist between colour and light. It has been said that light has a nature that is considered triple. This is a common argument especially by photographers (Konnen 87).

By this they mean that light has three very essential aspects that are the quality, the direction and the colour. How well one is able to master the three aspects will determine by and large the final images produced and whether ort not one will be able to achieve certain desired effects like the dilution of some colours for purposes of creating certain moods (Hirsh 78).

According to the research and discovery of Isaac Newton, ordinary light as perceived by the human eye has seven rainbow colours namely, red, yellow, green, blue, indigo, orange and violet. Light is therefore a combination of different colours. What appears as pure white light as perceived by the eyes of a human being is light that has these colours well balanced. However, it is not always easy to have light with these balanced colours as the constantly get altered as they travel in form of waves.

The colour of light has a great impact on the mood that an image taken has. It is of great importance therefore for any photographer to understand the concept of lighting and colour composition to use them to his advantage and create the desired effect.

Another very important aspect that must be looked at is what is known as saturation of colours. Simply put, this is the concentration of a given colour. This is also used to mean how intense a given colour is. This means that colours that tend to be very vivid or highly conspicuous are considered saturated. Colours that are somewhat dull on the other hand are considered unsaturated. Lighting affects saturation of colours so that polarized light may reduce saturation so that pretty much of the colour is diluted and the vice versa is true.

Being aware of the existence of this concept, it then becomes important to for photographers to know how to control saturation and use it to their advantage in order to achieve the desired effects and moods. The time of the day by and large affects saturation of colours. This is because the sun being the source of light is at different intensities at different times of the day. When the sun is rising in the morning, the colours at that time tend to be saturated.

This is also the case in the late afternoon. Colours however tend to be less saturated at midday. Therefore, if you were taking the photograph of a landscape, the best time to take the photo would be very early or late afternoon when the sun is about to set to achieve highly saturated colours.

One may also use a filter to alter the saturation of colours. Polarizers are used to increase the intensity or saturation of colours. When light is polarised it has the effect of diluting colours. Thus use of polarisers will help reduce the amount of polarized light coming ion the surface of the image being photographed thus increasing the saturation.


It is indeed of great importance that photographers grasp the concept of polarisation of light and colour composition really well. This is because it is the only way to achieve the best images possible. When one is not clear about either of these two aspects, then they may fail to achieve the desired results in their photographs.

Any poor picture that is produced by a photographer is as a result of failure to balance these two aspects and this makes it all so vital. It is only through experience that one is bale top master these aspects properly. Photography is an art that is perfected over time through constant practice.

Works Cited

Hirsh, Robert. Exploring Colour Photography: From Films to Pixels. London: Focal Press, 2010. Print.

Konnen, Gary. Polarised Light in Nature. New York: CUP Archive, 1985. Print.

Popular Mechanics. “Hearst Magazines.” Volume 76, No 3. New York. Sep 1941.

Verity, Enid. Colour Observed. Michigan: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1980. Print.


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