Orange and blue. Red and green. These timeless color combinations aren't just coincidences, they're complementary colors. And for this week's Shooting Challenge, you'll exploit the very nature of human perception to capture a photo with incredible vibrance.

The Challenge

Capture a photo that celebrates complementary colors as their subject. In other words, capture a photo that's predominantly orange/blue, red/green, purple/yellow, or really, any two colors that sit opposite one another on the color wheel (sometimes called the color circle).

Photoshop can tweak saturation and contrast, but all colors should be captured in-camera.

The Technique

OK, let's take a step back. How does all this color stuff work?


Start by taking a look at a color wheel, which is a simple organization of color based upon wavelength. It looks logical to the naked eye. Stepping away from the science, it's just a progression of colors at intervals that simply make sense when you look at them. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Now, say you hop from any one color directly across the color wheel, like orange to blue. Side-by-side, they create a vibrant look that's dominated movie posters and videogame covers for the last two decades. When mixed, they actually cancel one another's hue, creating an achromatic (black, grey or white) image. That's why they're considered complementary.

Now how does this relate to technique?

Find a subject or environment or lighting situation that allows you to capture complementary colors, and you'll, innately, have a photo that just pops. (Why? Read the science on how our eyes work here.)


A single red grape on a yellow tablecloth will look remarkable. Snag a color wheel. Trust me. And go for it.

The Example

Our lead photo by flickr's jar has almost no texture, and the lighting is basic, but it just pops, right? What can I say? Orange(ish) and blue. It gets the job done.


The Rules

1. Submissions need to be your own.
2. Photos must be taken since this contest was announced (read more on that above).
3. Explain, briefly, the equipment, settings, technique and story behind shot.
4. Email submissions to, not me.
5. Include 970px wide image (200KB or less) AND a 2560x1600 sized in email. I know that your photo may not fall into those exact high rez dimensions, so whatever native resolution you're using is fine.
6. One submission per person.
7. Use the proper SUBJECT line in your email (more info on that below)
8. You agree to the Standard Contest Rules - though we DO accept non-US resident submissions.
9. If the image contains any material or elements that are not owned by you and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the image, you are responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the image in the manner set forth in these rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any image is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.

Send your best photo by Monday, September 12th at 8AM Eastern to with "Colors" in the subject line. Save your files as JPGs, and use a FirstnameLastnameColors.jpg (970px wide) and FirstnameLastnameDayColorsWallpaper.jpg (2560px wide) naming conventions. Include your shooting summary (camera, lens, ISO, etc) in the body of the email along with a story of the shot in a few sentences. And don't skip this story part because it's often the most enjoyable part for us all beyond the shot itself!

Mark Wilson is the founder of Philanthroper, a daily deal site for nonprofits.