Color palettes

Color palettes are great tools for many different aspects of creativity, whether it be photography, weddings, design, or decoration. My favorite thing to do after a new adventure is to go through my photos, find which ones have great color tones and turn them into color palettes. Using Adobe Photoshop and the website, Name That Color, I have created a multitude of inspirational images to fuel your next Pinterest project.

 
 
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Color palette #1: ornament

The first palette, "Ornament," was based off a picture taken at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens during their "Garden Glow" event. During this time, the botanical gardens were lit every square inch with Christmas and Fairy lights. As a photographer, this event was an insane opportunity to get tons of brightly-lit, bokeh backgrounds and color combinations I wouldn't normally achieve walking down the street.

I loved the warm, red tones from this image. This was one of the first shoots I was able to experience with my new Nikon D800 DSLR and 50mm f/1.8 lens. I was very happy with how these images turned out!


Color palette #2: evergreens

Second on the list is "Evergreens." It was inspired from my trip to Denver, CO in January 2017. Steffani (pictured on the right) was a great sport, despite the freezing temperatures and wind. Mixed with pine trees in the background, Steffani's scarf from Spool 72 provided a great assortment of colors to use in a palette.

The combination of Bismark and Contessa together have inspired me in a few of my other designs as well. They further verify my obsession with pastel colors.

 

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Color palette #3: cold brew

Being stuck indoors in the Winter is especially frustrating for photographers. Sometimes, we have to make the best of it, which is exactly what I did for "Cold Brew." Christmas morning consisted of several cups of coffee. After staring at my cup for a while, I was inspired to utilize the bokeh from the Christmas tree pictured behind the coffee cup. 

The cool tones from the window and warm tones from the Christmas lights provided for an incredibly stunning gradient. I had a blast turning these tones into a palette. It definitely gave me an idea for future photographs to help even out warm-toned images with a splash of blues/whites.


Color palette #4: gradient

"Gradient" was actually created from a photograph taken in 2013, when I visited the beautiful Yosemite Valley, CA. After hiking to one of the highest points in the valley, I got a great view of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. These mountains, in combination with the haze of a California sunset, provided a natural "gradient" from dark to light blues. 

Given my photography knowledge today, I would have spent many more hours enjoying this view. There were so many lost opportunities due to eagerness and inexperience during this trip; a trip that has been one of the most life-changing opportunities.


Color palette #5: winter lights

"Winter Lights" is another palette created from my series at the St. Louis Botanical Gardens "Garden Glow" event. With the wind chill, this night was easily 10 degrees or lower outside. I can't thank Steffani enough for being the subject for many of my Garden Glow images.

To reference a previous palette, this is a photo that combines cool and warm tones. I have found that these images do incredibly well on social media, such as Instagram and Facebook. People are drawn to these color mixtures because of the natural balance it provides. Many photos appear too unnatural when they have an Instagram filter applied, since they tend to go too blue or orange. 


Color palette #6: winter trees

My 6th installment in the color palette series was taken from a drone photo during my Colorado adventure in 2017. The evergreen trees on Colorado highways are very attractive in the winter time. Because the drone laws are so strict around airports and city limits nowadays, I had to wait until my drive from Denver to Steamboat Springs to capture photographs like this image on the right. 

As sunset was upon me, I quickly took a few snapshots of the area in hopes that something might turn out. I was pleasantly surprised with the results. You can take a look at my drone photography here to see some more examples. I loved this image in particular because of its great blue tones, similar to the Yosemite photo in Palette #4. 


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Color palette #7: cliffs

In February 2017, my girlfriend and I took a trip to San Diego to test the waters (pun very much intended) as a potential place to live. While we were there, I took my drone out in the (very few) legal locations outside of the airport radiuses. This photo was captured in a spot rightfully named, Sunset Cliffs.

Winter time is brisk on the West Coast. The sun sets at around 5:30pm. I took my DJI Phantom 4 up around 5:20pm and was very pleased with the results. The sun shimmering off the cliffs provided a great amount of warmth to counter the blues/greens from the ocean. 

 


Color Palette #8: Blanket

I expanded my portrait photography section 10-fold after my trip to San Diego. Steffani was a great sport, especially during the 45 degree, windy evenings. During our walk along the ocean front, I spotted a really cool "Mexican" blanket at a tourist tent. Usually, I'd overlook these traps, but the pattern and colors stuck out so much to me. I paid a mere $10 and walked out with my blanket a happy man. 

We arrived to Sunset Cliffs in our hiking gear, which sort of contrasted the hipster-style I was going for in this shoot, so my new blanket provided a great cover. Paprika is one of my favorite colors, but not one that I get to use very often. It was a breath of fresh air for my week of seeing so many of the same blue/green tones. It was $10 well spent.

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Color Palette #9: Shore

I was relieved to finally have a location where my drone could fly without interruptions. Great drone photography comes from constant research and planning. Portrait photography, however, has several advantages. It's easy to avoid man-made eyesores like trash cans and power lines. Drones capture all that and more.

When you find a place without the eyesores, you still have to beware of people walking into your shot, which is VERY common, and very hard to avoid, since your range of view is wide. Also, the most beautiful places to take aerial photography are usually the most illegal. Bridges, buildings, concert venues, highways and parks prove to be fantastic subjects for drones. With the addition of city drone laws and 5 miles of No-Fly-Zones around airports, it's difficult to capture these subjects legally.

With all of this being said, beaches are great resources for legal drone usage and plenty of beautiful subjects. You just have to watch out for the helicopters passing through every 20 minutes.


Color Palette #10: Sunset

One of the most basic rules of photography is to NEVER point your camera at the sun. Why? Direct sunlight is harsh and can damage your image sensor, and worse, your eyes if you're looking through the view finder at the same time. Also, the center of the sun throws off your color balance by blowing out your highlights to a point of no return. But that didn't stop me from taking this incredible picture at sunset and turning it into a beautiful color palette.

The combination of Saffron Mango and Elephant is one of my favorites. It reminds me of a better time when the Rams football team thrived in St. Louis, rather than Los Angeles. But I digress.

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Color Palette #11: Van

This type of van can be spotted all throughout the west coast. I envy each and every owner, but I can't bring myself to pay for the constant upkeep that comes with the van itself. Therefore, I'll keep utilizing them as photography subjects for free! 

This palette ended up being a muted version of the previous post by accident. Even still, I enjoy the combination of Bright Gray and Teak. I don't think there's any other color of van that I would have preferred in this situation. By this point, the sun had already set and the sky was left with mere fragments of oranges and yellows. Luckily I had this vintage VW to bring back in the warmth I was looking for to counter the blue tones.

 


Color Palette #12: Pier

My 12th palette in the series is created after one of my favorite drone photos, taken above Crystal Pier on Mission Beach. The trick during this photo shoot was finding a nice, safe take-off/landing point for the drone. Once I was up in the air, every direction was photo-worthy. This was also a momentous occasion in my life, being that it was my first experience flying the drone over rough waters. Despite the heart pumping and shaking legs, I managed to capture exactly what I wanted.

I love the muted colors that came from this time of day. The water marbled into a complex array of waves that provided an interesting backdrop for the pier. While Timber Green takes up a large portion of this photo, I found that Waikawa Grey and Ship Grey are two incredible tones that I will definitely be utilizing in my future design projects. 

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Color Palette #13: Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon at sunset is an incredible sight to see. I highly suggest it to anyone that hasn't been! My road trip from St. Louis to San Diego in the Spring of 2017 involved several landmark stops along the way. I was very thankful for an experience I was likely never to see without driving to the West Coast. 

Because of the sheer depth of this canyon, the vivid oranges and blues during mid-day wash out to gorgeous pastel shades as the sun sets. Since this is a very cliche area to take pictures, lighting is a huge difference-maker to separate my work from the average iPhone user. The desert was windy and cold by this point in the evening, but it was definitely worth it for the colors I captured.


Color Palette #14: Sedona

A man once told me that God created the Grand Canyon, but he lived in Sedona. I can definitely agree with him that Sedona is a hidden gem that was initially never on my radar during my 2017 road trip to the West Coast. We arrived to this area at exactly sunset to see super vivid colors I didn't know were possible in an evening sky. After pulling the car over in a hasty fashion, I was able to capture this palette-worthy photo.

These rich colors just go to show what patience can reward you when out in the field. The difference of 20 minutes can turn a good photo into a great one. Matrix and San Juan together are a striking compliment of each other. This experience alone was well worth a trip back to Sedona the next day. 

 

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Color Palette #15: Desert

18 miles off the beaten path of Winslow, AZ is a place called Meteor Crater Road. It leads straight to a 50,000 year old meteor site about 3/4 of a mile in diameter. While I did NOT make it to the crater site successfully, I did get to spend a long time at the gas station six miles away! It was the perfect excuse to take my DJI Phantom 4 in the air to get a glimpse of the surrounding area.

The orange and brown tones from the desert are a stark contrast to what I normally see in the rural areas of Missouri. I have to say, however, that the beautiful earth tones are just not enough to keep me around in the heat. I was happy to see the trees once again right inside the California border.


Color Palette #16: sands

After an incredible 2500 mile journey to San Diego, I finally found my way to the beach. The sunsets in Pacific Beach are hard to beat. My inspiration for this color palette came from my shoot with Steffani in Spring of 2017.

As the night-life businesses along the boardwalk were coming to life, their lights began to glow in the background, creating a stunning line of bokeh in their path. Many of my palettes focus on blue tones, so I thought I'd create a set of earth tones for a change of pace. I am incredibly pleased with the result. These gray/brown colors are very soothing and subtle.

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Color Palette #17: Blacks Beach

Blacks Beach is an isolated shoreline in Torrey Pines, CA. It is named for its rare, black sands. With many of my current photographs being ocean-based, it was a nice change of pace to photograph a beach that didn't reflect sunlight. 

I love the earth tones in this palette mixed with the blue-greens from the late afternoon, ocean water. The fact that there were very few people in this area made my shoot here even more special.


Color Palette #18: horizon

While Sedona is an incredible spot for sunsets, it's hard to beat a San Diego horizon on a clear day. These were some insane color tones captured by my Nikon D800 without a single touch to the saturation slider in Lightroom. Other than a bit of contrast and clarity, these colors were purely in-camera.

I captured this amazing array of flat colors in the Spring of 2017 near Torrey Pines, CA. 

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Color Palette #19: star

Immediately after my horizon shot from palette #18, I broke out my Nikon D800 to grab this glowing silhouette portrait. With only one star in the sky (though likely a planet), I was able to capture this eerie moment. 

It's hard to believe that the bright colors from the previous post can turn into such deep blues and grays minutes later. Regardless, the light pollution beyond this hill provided a great break in the horizon line to help create palette #19: Star.