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Musings on Warm vs. Cool Colors


While searching for photos with warm colors and cool colors for Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge: Color Basics, I discovered that my impression of whether a photo falls into the cool or warm category is sometimes influenced by my memories of taking the photo.

For example: Even with all the cool blue water in the photo above, Β I feel warmth because I remember the warm breeze at the beach that day.

In the photo below, I remember the stark fluorescent lighting and the cold cement floors of the market and this memory overcomes the warmth of the peach color.


It’s also interesting just how much the quality of light can change where a photo falls on the warm-cool spectrum. The photo below was taken of the Port Townsend waterfront mid-afternoon.


And this next one was taken at sunset.


The changes in color overcome my memories in this case. I feel like I need a jacket when I look at the first photo and the second strikes me as warm, while in reality it was quite the opposite!

Another thing I find interesting is that photos taken on the same day in essentially the same place and same light can end upΒ in very different spots on the warm-cool spectrum.

This photo of Scooby strikes me as cool.


And this photo of a squirrel taken just a few minutes later feels so warm.


Since we have so many gray days here in the Pacific Northwest, a warming filter is a handy thing to have. I took this next photo at Flowing Lake withΒ a warming filter. It warms up a photo that would otherwise be all shades of dull gray.


I took this next photo just a few feet away but facing a different direction and got completely different colors. It’s possible that I took the warming filter off for the second photo or that there was a brief clearing in the clouds above that made the water reflect blue. I don’t remember. Either way, it has a completely different feel.


My take away thought from this challenge is this: Perhaps if I thought more about colors themselves as photo subjects, it would make finding subjects a little easier. There’s no way I would make it through that 120 days of Crayola challenge. I just haven’t taken enough photos of things based on their color and most of my photos are a blend of warm and cool colors.


31 thoughts on “Musings on Warm vs. Cool Colors

  1. Trish you make some interesting points about how “we” perceive the photos we take in accordance to how we felt while taking the photos. I do that a lot too. πŸ˜€ great examples.

    1. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that perceives photos that way! In one way it’s a good thing, it helps me remember more details about the day. On the other hand, I feel that sometimes I’m not seeing the photo the same way that everyone else sees it.

      1. I always see a blue ocean and think warm thoughts. The only time it is really blue out here is when the sun is shining that usually means summer for us. That is the one time blue to me is warm. πŸ˜€

  2. Could also be the focal length (assuming you’re using a telephoto lens) that changes the colour.

    I agree with you about how you’re feeling when you take the shot.

    The photos I took of dawn yesterday changed dramatically when I zoomed in (or out) – I was using the same Intelligent Auto setting on the camera, so you would think the camera made the same in-house exposure settings.

    1. I didn’t even think about the focal length changing the color! That would make sense since I don’t remember a drastic weather change or removing the warming filter. (Of course, me not remembering doesn’t mean anything!) I’ll have to come check out your dawn photos, if I haven’t already. The sunrise has already moved too far north for me to see the morning sky here so I will have to enjoy dawn and sunrise through your blog until next winter.

    1. Aw, thank you! What a wonderful surprise this is! I was afraid maybe I’d gone too far off topic. Being featured certainly makes my week a little more terrific! I hope your week is wonderful as well!

      1. No I didn’t think you were too far off base at all πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ I’ve had a slight headache the past couple of days and it’s slowing me down. Most likely allergies.

        1. Sorry to hear that. I’m feeling pretty much the same. It feels like a sinus headache so I bought some herbal nose spray this afternoon. It’s got to be the pollen – my windshield was covered with it! I hope you feel better soon.

        1. When I lived in the country I didn’t see squirrels that often either. I didn’t really think much of it until moving into the suburbs and finding myself surrounded by them. At times there are as many as six on my deck at once! I’ll have to look up fox tail squirrels. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.

          1. They’re much bigger, with a long bushy tail like a fox’s. Their pelt is a reddish/rust color. Had one run across the roof of our barn one day. Sounded like a dog running across the roof.

            1. I finally got a chance to look them up and that super long, red tail is amazing! I’ve never seen anything like it. I had to laugh at your description of it sounding like a dog running across the roof! πŸ™‚ Have a wonderful weekend!

  3. I finally have internet access at home again, so getting caught up on your blog today. In my experience, angle in relation to the light can make small to dramatic differences in the colors in photos. A blue lake can look kinda blah in one photo, and then vivid in the next. But I haven’t figured out the secret formula to getting great color every (or even most of the) time, alas.

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