Using Color As A Photo Assignment – Red

Getting motivated to create images and sometimes figuring out what it is you even want to shoot can be a challenge. Especially when you can’t travel and see new things and you feel like you’ve shot everything nearby countless times. The motivation level is low. So….I find giving myself little assignments gives me focus, direction, and the boost I need to get back out there.

It can be as simple as choosing a color to focus on. It doesn’t always have to be complex or deep or for a particular series. The best thing we can do for our creativity and improvement in how we see + motivation is to just get out and create something. Anything.

For me, if I don’t narrow my focus on any given day of shooting I usually come home with a bunch of crap. It’s only in being focused, whether on a specific subject, theme, or series, that I end up having images I’m happy with.

As I mentioned, choosing just one color is a simple start. It’s kind of surprising how much you begin to see that color when you’re on the hunt for it.

One example, red (though choose whatever color you like). Sometimes you find red architecture…kinda rare but it’s out there. Here, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

The red seats of the Pritzker Pavilion and a shot of a light display they had – red lights reflecting on the steel surface.

Obviously, I’m digging through my archives for examples to share with you, but thought this was kind of an interesting combo. A cafe in Paris and an art exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. Not only does the red tie the two together but the chairs, the repetitive patterns, the one-point perspective, framing. Fun!

So far each of these pairings work as diptychs or the possible start of a series. Sometimes it’s a matter of making different interpretations of the same location on the same day (like the first two examples) or multiple visits. Other times it’s going through your images and looking for common threads, like the shots above. Or these two below. The pop of red plus the combination of grid-like areas with some movement in various aspects of the design at each location. Different cities and many years apart. On the left the Calypso Building in Rotterdam, 2019. On the right the Calder Flamingo in Chicago, 2012.

Or these two. Again, different cities, different years – Paris’s lovelock bridge, 2014 on the left, and Seattle’s MoPOP, 2018 on the right. Both have similar tones, colors and heart-like properties. One more obvious than the other. But paired together a bit of a story.

These are just a few ideas and examples. Don’t worry about finding links and connections with an assignment like this. Just repeat it on various days and in different cities and locations. One day, as you continue this practice and eventually take time to look through your archives, you’ll piece together images that work together or even just have a single shot you love. Either result is a positive. This is simply about practicing seeing. It is only by being consistent that you get better and that you develop your vision even if it’s not obvious at the time. Many years of doing this and taking the time to reflect on your body of work will help you make connections and see your style emerge. In the meantime, this is an excuse to go create something and have a little fun.



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