Skip to main content

Make a Polished Image Background

Lesson 3 of 7

Effectively Use Color Theory

Brooke Shaden

Make a Polished Image Background

Brooke Shaden

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

3. Effectively Use Color Theory

Lesson Info

Effectively Use Color Theory

We're moving into talking about color theory, and I've brought in some dresses to do that. Color theory is really how we see color in relation to everything else going on in an image. So if we break down an image, we have lots of different components, like lighting, wardrobe, time, period set, location, things like that. But in my opinion, color is one of the most important things that we can think about, whether it's on set with set design or in editing, which is equally important in my opinion, or at least in what I dio. So I've brought in these clothes, and these clothes are indicative of the colors that I would be working with whenever I create a set. And this is really important when we talk about creating backdrops and creating images that are full of life, even though you might not have a lot to work with. So the first thing that I want to point out is that dresses such as this, or even this blue one are going to be a lot nicer to work with when it comes to changing color of thi...

ngs on your set. I don't know about you but I don't have a ton of money, not even a lot of money, even less than Tun. So I don't have the luxury of buying every single color dress that I want. It's just not possible I would have the whole entire rainbow if I could have that, but I can't. So instead, I have dresses like this. I don't like this color dress. It's not a color that really speaks to me. I just realized I'm wearing this color. But nonetheless, it is not a color that I love, so I'm probably not going to use this exact color in an image of mine. Instead, what I'm going to do is use this dress and whatever image I want and recognize that the boulder the color, the more easily I can change the color of the dress in photo shop. So when I'm thinking of color theory, I'm not only thinking of what matches, what and how can we bring that to the set? But also what can we do later to change colors? And that's really important when you're able to take images into editing because editing color can be your best friend. When it comes to bringing out emotion and story in an image. So color theory has to do with a lot of different components. And let's just break it down into a couple of them. One is first of all, how you see color on set or in photo shop. So that's the bold color of address or an object or a background that you have in your image. And that's simple. We all understand that, but what I like to do with a bold color is to parrot with almost no color at all. So instead of having multiple bold colors in an image like blue green yellow things like that, I like to have one main color, be it red or blue green and then have all neutral colors surrounding it. And to me, that allows the image to really stand out as having a color signature. You have one main bold color, and then everything else supports that color, and that's a big part of color. Theory is understanding when other colors air going to detract from the one that's most important or when it's going to support that color. So then how do you choose that color? How do you know which one is the right one to use in a certain situation. Well, that could be really simple, because let's take this dress and imagine that we've put it in photo shop. And it is just a beautiful, rich, bold red color instead of this sort of murkier maroon color. So if this is a really bright red dress, what emotion would that have for you? How would you feel toward that color if I were to say, What do you associate with the color red? You might say Love, passion, Valentine's Day, things like that. I would say Blood and death, because that's me and you might not be like that, and that's okay, too. So we have different associations with color, and those associations give our images and other people's images meaning and story. So if you can think about color in terms of what color evokes what emotion or story, it becomes much easier to choose the color, the exact color that should go in your image. But let's say that you're not interested in just having one main color. Well, you can also think about color in terms of contrast ing, so maybe you'll pair blue with red, and that's okay, too Dio. Of course, anything is OK, because there are no real rules in photography. There's just what might reach your audience best and what won't. So if you have contrast in colors in an image, it's important to recognize what colors actually contrast on a color wheel, meaning that they might actually pair well together if you find the right variation and what will just look sort of muddied a little bit when you pair them together? My personal favorite thing to Dio is to create monochromatic images where you have one main color going over the whole entire thing. So I will often take my images and put an overall blue color on top, giving the illusion that it's early morning or some color like that. But the other thing that I love, too Dio is to create a color signature for my work in the way that I do. That is by thinking about color in terms of light. If you go outside at sunset, the light is going to have a certain color, no matter what. It's going to be yellow versus noon, when it's going to be blue, so If you think about light as having an inherent color, you can start to think about your images in terms of highlights and shadows. And when you apply color to highlight and a shadow versus a mid tone, you're going to start to give your light color instead of just your overall image and everything within that image. And that can be super impactful. So when I'm thinking about color, I'm first and foremost asking What is the emotion and what is the story? And once I have that answer, I can really dictate exactly what color theory I should use. Should it be one main bold color, a monochromatic image, something with contrast ing colors? Or am I going to think about color in terms of light?

Class Description

Learn how to source, put together and polish backgrounds for your images by utilizing everyday objects, set design, and compositing. Award-winning and fine art photographer Brooke Shaden, shares her secrets to creating the magic behind her subjects. Not having a big budget or a great location should never stop someone from creating images that look expensive and refined.

You'll Learn:

  1. How to create and use bedsheets as backdrops so that your images have a painterly background.
  2. How to effectively and inexpensively use color theory and prop placement to create a set in your own home.
  3. How to shoot backgrounds for subjects you will composite in later, and top tricks for being able to create smooth composites.

This class has been edited in partnership with Adobe



I started to use Photoshop just for two months now, and I just came to this fruitful tutorial from the Adobe Photoshop official page for beginner tutorials. And I can say that it was amazing. For me that had already learned the basics of software, her amazing lessons were a chance to dig even way deeper into the color theory and light/shadow/color aspects of photo editing/compositing. Besides from that, it was a real inspiration on how we can use our simplest tools and options we have even at "home" to just start building our little home-studio and start photo shooting, compositing and eventually CREATING inspiring, mesmerizing artworks. HAVE FUN CREATIVES! =)

Ahmad Mostafa

Great, great to watch, great to listen and great to learn from, loved the instructor.

Deann DaSilva

Fantastic, super helpful. I love her creativity and imagination. Her technical explanation is spot on. Thank you Brooke.