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Understanding Color in Product Photography: A Complete Guide

Let’s talk about colors in product photography! Colors are super important for making your pictures look awesome. Colors can grab the viewer’s attention, create different moods, and even stir the viewer to action, like purchasing the product.


Let’s take a deeper look at color in photography and how it can impact your brand and marketing content. Knowing how to use color in photography can help connect with your audience and sell more products.

vintage film camera on pink background
Color is important in product photography. Image by Markus Winkler from Pixabay

Why do colors matter in photography?


Why does color matter so much in photography? Colors have a big impact on the mood and emotion of a picture. For example, bright colors can make the viewer feel happy and energized. Muted and desaturated colors create a sense of calm and nostalgia.

Coffee pot with rustic background in desaturated colors
Muted and desaturated colors create a sense of nostalgia. Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Different colors can make you feel different ways. Seeing red can get your heart pumping and make you feel all fired up. Looking at blue can chill you out and help you relax. In product photography, making the right color decisions is important in creating the vibe you want for your marketing plan.


Different colors are also associated with different emotions. Purple is often associated with luxury and sophistication. White gives the feeling of purity, simplicity, and innocence.


Deciding on the right colors for your product photoshoot depend on how you want your viewer to feel. If you want your viewer to view your product as plush and luxurious, think about a purple background or purple accessories around your product. If you want your viewer to get that back-to-nature vibe from your product, think greens.

product photo perfume bottles on glass with crystal bokeh
Subtle purples and pinks in the background give the image a flavor of luxury. Image by Christine Sponchia from Pixabay

Here is a basic list of key color-mood associations:

  • Red: energy, excitement, passion, sense of urgency

  • Orange: success, happiness, enthusiasm, sense of playfulness

  • Yellow: optimism, cheerfulness, warmth, sense of happiness

  • Green: nature, growth, health, sense of freshness

  • Blue: serenity, trust, wisdom, sense of peacefulness or loyalty

  • Purple: luxury, sophistication, creativity, sense of elegance

  • Black: formality, drama, sophistication, sense of security

  • White: clean, simple, innocence, sense of honesty

  • Brown: dependable, trustworthy, down-to-earth


Choosing the right colors to compliment your product send your customers a strong message.


Colors can be categorized as warm or cool. Warm colors, such as red, orange, and yellow, are associated with energy and excitement. Cool colors, such as blue and green are associated with calmness and relaxation.


Color psychology is strong. So, it’s super important to match colors in your image with the message you want to send. Choose the right colors and you convey a strong message before you say a word! Get the colors wrong and you undermine your message and confuse your customer.


What is Color Theory?


You may have heard about color theory. It’s not as daunting as it sounds. Basically, color theory is about how colors work together. Some colors go together. Others clash. Color theory helps you make choices when combining colors.


color wheel graphic
Color wheel. Colors across from each other are complimentary. Colors next to each other are analogous. Image by David Zydd on Pixabay

A color wheel helps you visualize color relationships. It’s like a map that helps you understand how colors work together. The color wheel is divided into sections like a pie. Each section is a different shade. The colors are arranged in a specific order like a rainbow: reds, oranges, yellow, greens, blues, and purples.

contrasting colors blue and orange pencils against contrasting blue and orange backgrounds
Color theory helps you make decisions about which colors go together. Image by macroworld on Pixabay

Colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, like red and orange, are called “analogous” and look good together. Colors across from each other, like blue and yellow, are called “complementary”. When these colors are placed next to each other, they create strong contrast and reinforce each other. So, they appear brighter and more vibrant. Complementary colors are often used in graphic design to add depth and interest to an image.


Getting Exactly the Right Color in your Photographs


You might think that a camera should be able to capture the exact color of your product. But you might be surprised at the color variation in the photographs. There are lots of things that affect the colors.


Lighting has a huge effect on color. Different kinds of light can make colors look different. For example, a warm light on a sunny day can make colors look more yellow. Placing a product on green grass can give it a green tint.


product photoshoot with studio lights
Lighting has a huge effect on color. Image by Varen Varen from Pixabay

White balance is how you describe the color of the light in the scene. Different light sources give off different colors of light. For instance, fluorescent lights tend to be cool and give off a bluish tint. Our eyes are great at adjusting to white balance variations. But our cameras capture the light exactly how it is.


White balance is measured on a scale called the Kelvin scale. Warmer light has lower Kelvin values. Cooler or bluer light has higher Kelvin values.


Most cameras have an automatic white balance setting. This works well in most situations. But if you’re trying to capture accurate colors, you may need to manually set the white balance. You want anything white in your image to be a true white – not shaded yellow or blue.


Your camera may have white balance modes that adjust for common light sources like fluorescent. If you are shooting indoors with artificial light, you may want to use the tungsten or fluorescent white balance settings. If you are shooting outdoors during the day, set white balance for daylight or cloudy depending on the weather.


Or you may be able to set your camera’s white balance to an exact number on the Kelvin scale. Many photographers use a neutral gray card to set a white balance. There are many brands you can buy. Place the gray card where your product will be. You want the gray card to get the same light as your product is going to get. Take a test shot of the gray card. You can use this image as a reference to set your camera’s custom white balance.


The camera can also have an effect on color. Each camera captures colors differently. The same photo shot on a Canon may have a very different look from one shot with a Fujifilm camera.


Don’t worry if your colors don’t look exactly right at first. You can often fix colors afterward using photo editing programs like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.


How to Fix Colors in your Photographs


Most photographers shoot with automatic white balance because they can easily fix this in post-processing. You can add more warmth using the white balance slider in programs like Lightroom. Or even use the picker to select a neutral color. Lightroom will adjust all light in the image to make this color neutral.

Lightroom screenshot showing whitebalance slider
You can easily adjust white balance in Lightroom using the sliders. Or click on the picker icon and click on a neutral color in your image. Screenshot by Jenn Mishra

Colors have labels like “red”. But there are many different shades of red. To be more precise, photographers often describe colors using their RGB values. This is a system for describing exactly which color you want.


RGB stands for “Red, Green, Blue”. These are the primary colors that make up all other colors. An RGB value has three numbers ranging from 0 to 255. The first number shows how much red is in the color. The second number shows how much green, and the third number shows the amount of blue.

Red, green, and blue pencils showing primary colors
All colors are made by combining primary colors of red, green, and blue. Image by Herbert from Pixabay

So, pure red has an RGB value of (255, 0, 0). Orange has an RGB value of (255,165,0). Orange has a lot of red, but also quite a lot of green.


If you know the RGB color value of your product, it’s easy to get exactly the color you want in the final photograph. And your color will be consistent across all photos.


Most color variations can be fixed in post-processing.


If you’re using a photo editing program like Lightroom, use the HSL panel in the Develop module to adjust colors. HSL stands for “Hue, Saturation, and Luminance”. HSL is another way to describe exact colors. For example, blue is a hue. But there are tons of different blues out there! Some are darker, some are lighter (Luminance). Some are more intense, and some are less intense (Saturation).

Lightroom screenshot of HSL panels
You can easily adjust hue, saturation, and luminance in Lightroom using HSL sliders. Screenshots by Jenn Mishra

In the HSL panel, you can use the sliders to change the amount of each color’s hue, saturation, and luminance is in your image. For instance, you can saturate or darken the reds in your image. Or using the Hue slider, you can change the tint of the reds making them more orange or more purple.


RGB and HSL values let you pick the exact colors you want in your photographs. This is especially helpful if you have a product or brand with a specific color. You want this color to be exactly the same color across all photographs!




Colors are super important in creating visual impact and supporting the message of your photographs. Different colors create different emotions. Color theory helps you pair colors for maximum impact.

bottles of nail polish in shades of pink, red, purple, and yellow
Pairing colors is essential in product photography. Image by Ellenllyy from Pixabay

Lighting and white balance play a big role in capturing accurate colors. To get exactly the colors you want, you may need to adjust colors in a photo editor.


Knowing how to work with colors in your product photography is like having a secret superpower. You can create just the right mood and convey the right message, making a strong impact on your customer. You can enhance your brand’s message and make your product more attractive to the right buyers.

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