Mastering Color in Your Photography – The Color Orange

By Lane Erickson

One of my favorite knock knock jokes that I pester my kids with, and which repeatedly uses the word banana, ends with the contrasting punchline, “Orange you glad I didn’t say banana!” This is a great introduction to this topic because orange is such a saturated, contrasty color that I often search for it as I am working to Find the Right Light for my photographs.  

Nestled between red and yellow on the color spectrum, orange is a color of warmth, and maturity which is often found in ripe fruit and vegetables and in autumn leaves. Even Frank Sinantra liked the color orange calling it the happiest color!

According to the article, The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding, which refers to the color emotion guide, orange is a color that conveys “friendly cheerful confidence.” This color has been used by businesses such as The Home Depot; Gatorade; Crush; Payless Shoes; and Amazon just to name a few.

Honestly, I’m not an advertising professional and I don’t study marketing techniques, so I don’t know if any of that is true. What I do know is that the color orange works fantastically well when creating photographs. Because of this, I often keep my eyes open to any scene that has the color orange in it.

Orange appears often in nature all around us, especially for landscape photographers and artists during the “golden hour” which is just after sunrise and just before sunset.  I’ve taken advantage of the golden hour and have captured many landscape images with that beautiful, texture revealing light.  

Here are some examples of orange, golden hour light:

The photograph of the road was created on a November afternoon, as I was waiting for the sunlight to strike the Teton mountains with alpine glow light.  As I was waiting, I turned around and saw the backlit fields, power lines and the road. The golden light added warmth to the already yellowed and dried grasses on the roadside. This contrasts nicely with the dusting of snow on the road.  I used my Fujifilm X-T1, and the Fuji XF55-200mm R LM OIS lens zoomed out to 200mm. My exposure was ISO 200, 1/320 at f/4.8. 

The photograph of the fisherman was taken early one morning in Yellowstone National Park. He is fishing in the Madison River.  I entered the park in the dark through the West entrance, where the road follows the river. The sun had just come up when a bend in the road revealed this fisherman standing in the backlit river and rising steam.  I used my Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the fantastic Fuji XF100-400mm OIS WR lens zoomed to 270mm. The exposure was ISO 200, 1/125 at f/5.6. 

Sunrise or sunset also often displays beautiful orange light. I’ve seen it many times and have captured it in photographs.  

The image of the treeline with a small lake in the background was taken during a backpacking trip I took through the Tetons.  It was early in the morning after a big storm and the sun had just peaked through some clouds and lit up the fog that was rolling through the air.  It was a beautiful scene and while I like the photograph, it doesn’t hold a candle to what it really looked like in person. I captured this image with a Nikon D200, and a Nikkor 55-200 lens zoomed to 165mm. The exposure was ISO 100, 1/60 at f/8.

I created the image of the Jefferson Memorial, in Washington DC just after sunset because I wanted to include the building after the lights were turned on.  I love the sunset glow in the sky and reflected in the water. I used my Nikon D5100 with a Nikkor 18-70mm lens. I set the camera down on a walkway and used the articulating screen to frame the image. The exposure was ISO 1oo, 1 second at f/11.    

Who can resist taking a photograph of the Grand Prismatic Pool in Yellowstone National Park.  The minerals in the water running out of the Pool create deposits that result in a rainbow of amazing color that ends in orange sunray-like streams through the dirt.

I took this image during the Memorial Day holiday in 2018 with my Fujifilm X-T1 that was paired with the awesome Fuji XF55-200mm OIS lens. (Have I mentioned that I love this lens!) The exposure was ISO 200, 1/1000 at f/8.

As I mentioned above, autumn brings the color orange out in abundance as can be seen in this image of harvested pumpkins.

While traveling for business, I saw a produce stand on the side of the road with what appeared to be an acre or two of pumpkins.  By using a telephone lens I was able to compress all the pumpkins into an impressive scene. I created this image with my Fujifilm X-T1 and (one again) the Fuji XF55-200 OIS lens. My exposure was ISO 200, 1/420 at f/8. 

I also have to admit that I have a soft spot for rust.  I just love the brilliant color and texture created by rust.  

In this image, a painted blue wall was covered in richly colored, and beautifully textured rust. By shooting this image in the shade, the blue was enhanced and is contrasted nicely by the rust. I created this photograph back in March of 2007 with my first DSLR which was the Nikon D70 with the Nikkor 18-70mm kit lens. The exposure was ISO 200, 1/320 at f/8 (I just love exif data because I would never have remembered any of the exposure information for any of these photos.)

For my final image illustrating how lovely the color orange I offer this image of a softball diamond from behind the plate. 

The freshly tilled dirt was a beautiful orange tinted brown. I found this during a lunchtime walk during work one day. I captured this image with my Fujifilm X-T1 and, yep, you guessed it, the Fuji XF55-200mm lens! I was at the 55mm setting and the exposure was ISO 200, 1/200 at f/16. 

My guess is that you’ve seen the color orange around you just like I have. Next time you do, use your camera and capture some photos of this richly beautiful, warmly engaging color. When you do, maybe you’ll find yourself filled with the “friendly cheerful confidence” marketing psychologists rely on.

I’d love to hear your comments, suggestions and even your critiques.

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