Category Archives: 2 – Building a library of colours

Exercise – Primary and Secondary Colours


In this exercise I have taken 18 x photos, choosing colour as the theme and I have attempted to match as closely as possible the colours on the colour wheel as illustrated on page 108 of the OCA Art of Photography text book. A PDF copy of which is included above this text, please click on the link to see the PDF copy.

I have photographed each subject three times at half-stop differences with one half-stop above and one half-stop below the light meter’s recommended setting to illustrate how the colours will appear to alter when deliberately choosing to use a different setting other than that recommended by the camera.

Referring to the colour wheel from page 108, I have worked my way around the wheel, clockwise, starting from the top my first three images represents the first colour on the wheel, yellow, which is considered a primary colour in the spectrum of reflected colours, but is a secondary colour in the spectrum for coloured light. The reason for this is in the light spectrum yellow is made from a mixture of colours of light.
This images were taken at 1/80 between f/4, f/4.5 and f/5 in RAW with no alterations in post processing.
This image appears to me to have the closest representation of the yellow on the wheel at f/4 which was half a stop above the metered value.

Orange is the next colour on the wheel and this is considered as a secondary colour as it is made with a mixture of yellow and red. Camera was set to 1/60 between f/4, f/4.5, f/5.

This image taken at f/4.5 is the closest match to the orange on the wheel which was the metered value.

The next colour is red, which is considered to be a primary colour for both reflective and light colours.
The camera was set to 1/60 between f6.3, f/7.1 and f/8.

The closest match is f/6.3 a half-stop higher than the recommended metered value.

The next colour on the wheel is violet which is a secondary colour and is made from a mixture of red and blue, this is a tougher colour to find and after much searching I came upon a small wild violet growing against a wall of my house. Camera set to 1/125 between f/9, f/10 and f/11.

Again my choice for the closest match is a half stop higher than the metered value for more light on to the image.

The next colour on the wheel is blue, this colour is considered to be a primary colour for both reflected colour and coloured light. I used the sky as my subject for this image as it is probably the most commonly found, natural, source of blue in photographic images.
Camera was set to 1/80 between f/11, f/13 and f/14.
In this selection I have chosen the image a half stop lower; so reducing the light on to the image and thus making the image a little darker to a deeper blue. (f/14).

The final colour on the wheel is green and this colour is a secondary colour in the reflective spectrum being mage from a mix of blue and yellow, but is a primary colour as light in the light spectrum fro example as used by computer monitor screens, etc.
My camera was set to 1/60 between f/4, f/4.5 and f/5.

My final choice to the nearest match on the wheel is the darkest image taken at f/5.