Color, Light, Texture and Perception (Kodak Blog, June 17, 2008)

NOTE: This is a “reprint” of my blog post to Kodak’s previous “A Thousand Words” blog.

There’s nothing like a paint chip, a can of paint and a large painted textured wall to remind us of the relationship between color, light, texture and perception – both in real life and in the pictures we capture! Like some of my fellow Kodak bloggers, I too am doing some home remodeling. I’ve been without a kitchen for more than two years now, so we were ecstatic when we recently started painting our kitchen and great room. We were looking for a nice warm, earthy gold color to give the room a cozy feeling and to complement our cabinets. I picked up a number of paint chips that looked like they had potential:

paint chips

I placed them next to a piece of cabinet filler to see how they’d look with our cabinet color:

paint chips next to wood

I even looked at the final candidates under different lighting conditions. We finally settled on a color called “Warm Cocoon.” Sounds cozy and inviting, right? To be really sure before we painted the walls, we bought one gallon of that color and one gallon of another color that we were considering for adjacent rooms. When I opened the can of Warm Cocoon, I was a little alarmed by the orange sherbet color staring back at me. “It’s ok,” I told myself – “when it dries, it’ll be the perfect color!” We painted a couple of 20”x30” remnant pieces of textured drywall with our exciting new colors. When the orange sherbet dried, it really did look like the Warm Cocoon we were hoping for. It also looked great next to the cabinets and other wall color. Off to the store to buy more paint so we could do the whole room. A little taping and an excellent paint sprayer and we had the paint on the walls in no time. This is really exciting!


Hmmm… The color is looking a little loud and a little orange – what happened to warm and cozy?! Let’s wait until it dries and take a look at it in the morning in the sunlight. Well, it took us less than 24 hours to realize that we wouldn’t be able to live with Warm Cocoon staring back at us. There were some areas of the wall under certain lighting conditions that did look like that warm gold we had envisioned, but unfortunately we could not deny that the majority of the time the walls just looked too orange.

A little revisit with the paint chips, a trip back to the store to get more paint and we were ready for some “Calm Air.” Ooooh, ahhhhh – there’s  that warm and cozy color we were hoping for! Here are some pictures to show some of the contrast in the two colors:

ornaments ornaments

Notice how Calm Air looks gold next to Warm Cocoon and vice versa. Lighting, perception and camera auto adjustments all play a role in the color of our digital pictures! Although the Calm Air looks more tan or taupe in the second picture, it really does look more golden in person and on the walls. Here’s a picture that best captures the essence of the Warm Air color, as seen next to the ceiling and the cabinet:

final color next to cabinet

So how does this affect my photography? It reminds me to keep in mind that surrounding colors, texture and lighting can influence the overall impact and emotion of a picture. I often focus on the central subject and don’t always think about the surrounding environment. This can be important, especially when you do have some control over what will be in the background of a shot. A little color theory can go a long way to improve your pictures. Want to learn more about color theory and photography? Check out Chris Rutter’s Color Theory Fundamentals for Digital Photography and other resources on the web.

Posted in diy, kodak_blog, photography.