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Embracing Color

November 11, 2015

One photographer who is acutely aware of the difference color can make is Matt Crump. The self-titled #CandyMinimal-ist produces images which are as much studies in color contrast as they are visions of places and objects. We sat down with him to establish how best to use color in your iPhoneography.

Color is one of the fundamental clues our eyes use for deciphering the world around us. It provides contrast when the light is uniform, and can add beauty where texture and form seem uninspiring. Furthermore, it can shape the way an image is perceived — while cooler, muted tones imply something bleak, the use of brash and bold shades usually indicates a cheerful mood.

Joshua | Matt Crump

A Little Inspiration

After initially joining Instagram as “a casual user” who “didn’t put much thought into photographic artistry,” Matt Crump started to become more interested in the skill he was developing. “I was exposed to more and more artful pics through the app — I was inspired and started trying new things. Infinity and Beyond | Matt Crump

Slowly, I developed my own unique style while learning the basics of photography at the same time.” That process started three years ago now, and in the time since, 120,000 people have followed his account.

The unique style he refers to is simple, but eye-catching; cropped landscapes, retro signage, Disney visions, and still-life setups are reproduced in candy floss pinks, aqua blues and minty greens.Candy Pier | Matt Crump

While his choice of hues might not be to everyone’s taste, Crump’s methodology is applicable for any photographer. “In the beginning, my shots were cold, lifeless, and bland,” he recalls. “I looked back at my favorite childhood artists (Dr. Seuss, Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol) for inspiration and realized that their use of color is what initially attracted me to their work,” he tells me. “I took a cue from them.” Whatever your favored look, drawing inspiration in this way can make your personal style easier to find.Disney Castle | Matt Crump

Continuity is King

One key ingredient in Crump’s recipe is his precise use of color. This might seem at odds with the vibrant images that adorn this blog post, but in fact, Crump is very careful to include only colors that complement one another.

“You can see from the early stages of my work [that] my use of color was erratic. Over time, though, certain color combinations and gradients stuck, and I cut out colors that didn’t play well with my favorite ones. Pastels make up the base of my color palette, and I use bolder tones like red, hunter green, and dark blue sparingly since they clash with pastels.”Zigzag | Matt Crump

Most successful photographers follow similar rules of continuity. “Some of my favorite Instagram artists use muted or earth tones,” notes Crump, “but they still have a consistent color palette.”

The editing workflow Crump employs in maintaining his style is fairly simple. After adjusting basic settings like saturation, and contrast, and hue (under Image > Adjust > Tools tab > Color in Enlight), he then uses filters liberally until he is happy with the coloration. You can follow suit under the Filter menu, with plenty of looks to pick from, and the option to edit each one. Equally, the Duo tool lets you combine color gradients for a unique mix.

For the full technicolor treatment, head for Enlight’s Hue tool, which allows you to radically change the colors of your image. We’ve demonstrated this on one of Matt’s original images here, painted in candy-colored pink and blue.Rollercoast | Matt Crump

Tap Image > Adjust > Tools tab > Color. This time select Hue, and swipe to the right a little to turn the sky green, and the subject of the image purple.Enlight Hue Edit | Matt Crump

Increase Hue some more, and you will paint the photo in yellow and blue.Enlight Hue Edit | Matt Crump

Now, swipe left to decrease the Hue, and you will have a watermelon-toned image.Enlight Hue Edit | Matt Crump

In other words, you are never more than a few swipes away from totally changing the colors in your photo. Using the Mask tab you can even Wipe away the change in color from certain areas; for example, changing only the color of the sky and nothing else.Flyby | Matt Crump

For a subtler approach, you could also choose to maintain a certain temperature in all of your photos (also under Image > Adjust > Tools tab > Color), choose only to shoot in certain overhead conditions, or simply look for scenes that fit your preferred palette.

Hone Your Style

Most importantly, the key is to experiment and then refine your style. 11262715_163347264001135_1317456534_n
Image by @littledrill.

 

While articles such as this one can provide a great starting point, the best way to learn about color is to play with it. “I’ve never taken a photography class — it’s just been years of trial and error,“ says Crump. Following in his footsteps is all about making your own errors, and learning from them.

 

Written by: Mark Myerson.

Contributing photographer: Matt Crump is an art director-turned-professional photographer from Austin, Texas. He was named as one of TIME Magazine’s top 50 Instagrammers, and has worked with major brands including Target, Starbucks, McDonalds, and Coca-Cola. His #CandyMinimal hashtag has been used on over 100,000 images.

 

Mark Myerson
Mark Myerson

Mark is a freelance journalist and professional photographer based in the UK. He specializes in writing about the subject of iPhoneography, and is an avid mobile photographer in his spare time. When he isn't typing, he can usually be found exploring the countryside, camera in hand.

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