The photo above is of Leopold, a Seychellois fisherman, who I spent some time fishing with on assignment. Your eyes are immediately drawn to the yellow-orangeish water jug he is carrying. If that water jug had been a different color – say white or even blue – it won’t have popped out a lot more in the photo.

The reason why this jug pops more is because it is surrounded by its complementary color – a shade of blue.

Now look at the color chart below. Colors that complement each other are the ones that lie diagonally across from each other. That are opposite each other. So blue-orange, yellow-purple, red-green, and all similar shades of those colors in-between complement each other.

Color Wheel by Girts Avotins – Freelance Graphic Designer

Here are a few examples that further illustrate this point. Learning to quickly spot these color combinations while out and about will help you create more vibrant photos that naturally pop color-wise.

The red hot air balloon and the lush green grass.


The blue and orange colors of this market vendor’s sari.


The various shades of yellow and pink/purple during the Pride Parade.


And one of my favorite photos – The boy running in blue jeans past an orange wall.


Check out more quick photo composition tips in my library.