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Set the Tone: Guide to Choosing a Color Scheme for Your Photography Website

Like most people, you probably have a favorite color. And also like most people, you probably based the color scheme of your photography website around it. However, picking such an important part of your online presence simply following a personal preference might not be the wisest idea. Does this color actually represent your brand? How does your audience feel about it? Which other tones work well with it?

Turns out, deciding on your website’s color scheme is actually quite tricky, as its impact goes far beyond making your page look nice. From your visitors’ first impression, to how your photos interact with every element of your site, there is so much to take into account. To make this whole process easier, here are the steps you should follow when choosing a color scheme for your photography website:

Understand color psychology

It’s no secret that colors and feelings are tightly related. As Pablo Picasso said, “Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” You have most likely heard something about it before, but you might not know it doesn’t only apply to the walls of a studio or a baby’s room.

The psychology of colors demands a guide of its own, and you should definitely dedicate some time to doing a bit of research on the topic. To help you ease the process, here’s a quick look into a few emotions that the most common colors evoke:

  • White – purity, simplicity, efficiency

  • Black – efficiency, sophistication, security

  • Red – courage, warmth, excitement

  • Blue – serenity, calmness, trust

  • Green – harmony, tranquility, balance

Focus on your work

There is no doubt that your photos are the core of your visual language. Because of this, your portfolio is the best place to start looking for your color scheme. Select a few of your images and break each of them down into a color palette. Try to find around five tones per photo, maintaining the same number for all of them

Whether you have developed a clear processing style or like to experiment with diverse techniques, this step will help you understand the way people perceive your work and brand. On top of that, it might even make you notice some patterns you were not aware of beforehand. You can easily create your own color palettes with free online tools.

See what others are doing

Now that you have a clear picture of your portfolio’s visual identity, it’s time to take a look around. Which color schemes are other photographers similar to your style using? More often than not, it’s easy to see a clear pattern shared by websites within a specific style or genre.

For example, the majority of wedding photography websites use warm and soft colors paired with an abundance of white. Newborn photography portfolios usually rely on combinations of pastel tones. Urban photographers tend to use darker colors. The reason behind this homogeneity within genres is the fact that they are targeting a specific audience who is attracted to certain visual identities. Despite this, you might see many photographers moving away from these guidelines to match their unique styles and goals.

Look at the bigger picture

The last step of your research should be dedicated to the latest photography website design trends. While these don’t usually focus too much on color schemes, understanding these trends is key to implementing your tones in the best way possible.

Taking 2018 as an example, we see that most photography portfolios opt for a minimalist approach. We’re not saying you should blindly follow this trend, but you’ll want to keep it in mind in order to avoid creating a color composition that feels outdated to visitors.

Match your brand

Other than your portfolio, your photography logo is the main visual that people will identify your work with. If you don’t have one yet, put all this color research into practice and create a photography logo as soon as possible. If you do, make sure you made the right decisions, based on your findings from the research.

In order to create a strong brand, the color scheme of your photography website and your logo should work together. This doesn’t mean you need to use the exact same colors on both, but they should be similar or at least complement each other.

photographer logo design examples


Now that you’ve done your research, it’s finally time to have some fun and put all the theory into practice. There is a nearly unlimited amount of tools online that will help you choose the best color scheme for your photography website. Some of these tools include, Adobe Color CC, and ColourCode. Each of them offers different features and options to browse color schemes, so you might want to take a look at all of them before and see which one better fits your needs.

During this process, you should aim to find no more than two dominant colors and an additional one or two accent colors. Despite what these adjectives may sound like, none of them should outshine the rest. They should work well together, either complementing or contrasting each other.

Find your dominant color

This is the color you want people to remember your brand for. This means it should match the primary color of your logo, marketing assets, and social media elements. Take for example Nikon’s yellow and Canon’s red. If you look at their websites, you’ll see how their logos and websites share this key characteristic.

On your website, this dominant color will be used to direct your visitors’ attention. In order to do so, you should limit its use to specific buttons or CTAs. This will clearly define the path you want people to take on your portfolio, and improve the overall user experience.

Give it some highlights

Accent colors have two main purposes: making your website more interesting and leading visitors’ attention to a second tier of actions. The first one is quite self-explanatory: a website with a single color can be quite boring. If you are aiming for a minimal and clean look, you can use different tones of your dominant color as your accent colors.

As for leading viewers in the right direction, these colors will allow you to highlight content that does not require immediate action but that you still want visitors to interact with. This includes anything from subtitles and menus to information boxes and background strips.

Balance them out

After you have decided on the color scheme for your photography website, it is time to put it into action. To ensure you get the best results possible, you should be following the well-known 60-30-10 rule. Applied to web design, this method indicates that 60% of the site should be negative space, 30% your dominant color, and 10% your accent color. Take one last look

Before you click the publish button and share your creation, take a step back and think if there is anything that could be improved. How does the color scheme interact with the images you showcase? Does this design truly represent who you are as a photographer? You might even want to ask for a second opinion from someone close to you and your work. Once you are completely satisfied with the result, it will finally be time to put it out there for the world to see.

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