Echoing earth tones is a great way to capture a sense of grounding in a photo (pardon the pun), but this colour psychology only works when you use the right shades in the right setting. Let’s take a look at how tans, greens, browns, and greys invoke thoughts and feelings, and how to shoot them for maximum effect.
Earth tones with more browns can suppress emotions, blocking the influences of the outside world and creating an objective environment. Shooting a living subject in this setting allows the viewer to be more cognisant of the subject’s feelings as you frame them. When trying to achieve this, refrain from including yellow and red hues in the frame.
Comfort and Serenity
An emotionally neutral colour, grey creates a stable environment with a sense of calm and composure. Earth tones dominated by grey do not energise or stimulate, making perfect backdrops for lively subjects. However, too much grey can make a subject seem depressive and lonely. If this is the visual message you want to communicate, grey can invoke these feelings in a frame quite effectively.
Earth tones that include browns and greens are often associated with nature, as they are muted and lack contrast, just like the colours found in plants, rocks, and soil. The colour psychology of brown brings a wholesome feel to this mix — synonymous with quality, organic produce. Beyond food and produce, earth tones with more browns also make spaces more comfortable. Capturing this feeling in a photo requires less interference from other colours.
Earth tones send a direct message to the viewer about the environment, making these colours synonymous with promoting sustainability. The crux is that earth tones provide comfort and refuge from the harshness of this world, and a sense of home and belonging. If this is the message you’re going for, minimise the distraction of other colours or man-made objects in your shot.
Do you use earth tones in your photography to convey any of these messages or emotions? What other ways do you use earth tones as an aesthetic and psychological tool in your photography? Leave us a comment below to share!