Try these simple tips for using neutral tones in photography and infuse your images with a sense of calm, simplicity, and warmth.
Natural and simplistic lifestyle imagery is used across the world to evoke the feeling of wellness, apothecary, and minimalism. Photographers who specialize in this aesthetic often start with using neutral tones and colors. These aren’t images depicting bold, contrasting colors of a sunset. Nor are they images showing dark and moody cinematic moments. Neutral tones help photographers create images that depict a holistic and natural lifestyle.
Images by Ekaterina Zubal
What are neutral tones in photography?
Neutral tones are often earth-colored tones that relate to the natural elements of an outdoor environment. Neutral tones can be the color of sand, the color of water, or the color of dust, for example. These tones often range on the warmer scale, and are opposite to the bold colors typically associated with dramatic tonal differences.
In this particular style of photography, we often reference the warm earth tones of nature. Neutral colors can be the colors of the desert and the ocean. Instead of a deep dark red, they are burnt orange. Instead of a neon green, they are they sage green of dried-up desert flora.
Warm tones by Ekaterina Zubal
What images can you create using neutral tones?
Neutral tones are often associated with wellness and natural, simplistic lifestyles. Think minimal home decor, clean counters, and oak cabinets. Neutral tones in photography keep everything feeling very simple. There’s nothing complicated, and instead the scene speaks from itself without the use of bold colors and dramatic tones.
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Images by Floral Deco
How can I use neutral tones to create simple and natural-looking images?
If you love the neutral tone aesthetic and want your images to look and feel simple and natural, there are a few simple tricks typically associated with this style. Here are four ways you can start to edit your images to create a neutral tone in your photography.
Japanese minimalism by milatas
Tip #1: Use natural light
Neutral tones in photography are best captured using natural light. Artificial light (unless you’re a lighting pro) often creates harsh, long shadows which will create drama in your images.
Instead, find a bright, sunlit space to shoot your photographs. Even better, whenever possible try to shoot during golden hour. The early morning is my favorite for capturing photographs with neutral tones. Alternatively, look for an overcast day where the bright sunlight won’t be as present and the clouds will create a nice, natural softbox for your images.
Daylight cafe by Veera
Tip #2: Edit your images on the warmer scale
Look for warm yellows and oranges, as these are the natural colors you’ll want highlighted. Your creating slightly desaturated hues and an almost monochromatic look. Next, so that your images don’t look overly warm, lower the saturation slightly until you’ve hit that perfect spot of a neutral and natural image that aligns with the aesthetic of the photographs you want to create.
Tip #3: Use props with natural materials
Instead of artificial plastic and metal, look for props that are made with materials found in nature. Examples of these could be a wooden desk, hanging eucalyptus, or peonies on the table. In home interiors, you’re looking for minimal utensils and accents made of materials such as wood or bamboo. For your models, look for clothing made of natural materials such as wool or linen.
Sustainability is another important element of crafting neutral, aesthetically pleasing imagery, so take these details into consideration when you create your images.
Images by Flaffy
Tip #4: Less is more, so keep it simple
Keep your scene as simple as possible, and don’t overcomplicate it. Less is more when you are creating images using neutral tones. You want the image to speak for itself.
Instead of overdoing it with props and people in your frame, try to frame everything in your image in a monochromatic matter. Each prop and each person should reflect the environment around it. Don’t use bold colors. Instead, use natural colors to create a simple and minimal image that tells a natural lifestyle story.
A little hand by PETCHSPHATCHARA
We hope these tips help you create images using neutral tones, that highlight a natural, simple lifestyle. We can’t wait to see what you create next at Shutterstock.
Featured Image by The Shots Co.
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