My World is colorful

My World is colorful

In this article i explain how i see and interact with colors.

Hello, I am Alessandro Di Cicco, international portrait photographer, and today i will be speaking about the world of colours.

Colour grading and working with colours is what made my style unique and easy recognizable, it’s my signature, that style that when you see my photos you will say ‘’this photo is from Alessandro’’.

Every colour we see has a different psychological effect on us, and I went to study the emotions and meanings that each colour can give us, what really inspired me in the ‘’colouring’’ world was the film Titanic, for example in the romantic scene we have beautiful ‘’orange and red’’ filters and connected to right music the person feels ‘’love’’ emotions, ever wondered why sunsets are so relaxing? …well now you know! Coming back to Titanic at the end of the film when the boat was sinking the filters became cold blue and people where sensing ‘’danger and anxiety’’, so this is how powerful and important the world of colours is in filmography and photography.

This has changed the way I see things now, when I see a movie I normally concentrate on how the colour grade and see the filters they use, I normally get inspired a lot by them.

Here a perfect example on one of my photos, you can see the orange filter applied to the photo, a sunset, orange sky and a beautiful moment between a girl and a little lamb, so the feeling the viewer has on this photo is very relaxed and feel love emotions.

For each photo I like to have maximum 3 colours per photo, the reason I choose not have a lot of colours in one photo is because it deconcentrates the viewers from the actual subject, I want my viewers that concentrate on the actual model, I make sure that using this process the first thing that they will see when they open their eyes or when the photos is shown to them is the model and its also a good way to make the model pop out in the photos.

The process of choosing the colours starts before the actual shooting, I normally write down on my computer or my mobile phone the idea of the photo and how imagine it finished, so I choose the right location, the right model and the clothes for the shooting, when needed I even ask a certain type of make-up.

For me is very important that I organize everything before the actual shooting, sometimes we have to create the dress from zero, finding the perfect location requires time such as driving around or searching on the internet the location that will fit the idea I had in my mind.

As you can see in the photo below, this shooting was organized 5 weeks before, I wanted a ‘’sandy place’’ a model that either came from ethnic Countries or looked like them, I was lucky enough to find the model quickly.

I then purchased the clothing, the jewellery and we built up the actual dress, and as you can see from the result we have 3 colours in the photo – Orange ( rusty, ginger and light orange) then we have purple and the blue of the sky, even the objects need to match, when I shoot I want everything to be very clear and not confusing

In the photos below, we did the same process but the colours of the background where changed in post-production so I went from having 3 colours in the original photo to having 2 colours in the edited photo.

In this photo I used 3 colours, we can see Black, brown and orange.

How do I choose my colours? Most of time I make the choice by looking and studying the locations, lights, shadows, this below is a location I used, as you can see its all brown and green, so I already know that I will transform the green colour into a brown colour for the final result.

While shooting a make sure the model is fully aligned with the guide lines that the location offers, and with a very old brown ladder we took some shots.

Margherita, the model, has beautiful blue eyes, and her dress is black, orange and blue. So how I see it is like this:

Brown hair with Brown location

Orange flowers with orange sun light

Blue flowers with the models blue eyes

Here you have the final result

To understand better the world of colours we need to also understand what colours match good with each other, and to this we will talk about Complementary colours and learn how to read the colour wheel.


Complementary colours are two colours that are on opposite sides of the colour wheel.

As a photographer, knowing which colours are complementary to one another can help you make good colour decisions.

For instance, complementary colours can make each other appear brighter, and you can also see this technique called contouring used by make-up artists, these colours can be mixed to create effective neutral hues, or they can be blended together for shadows.

Let's explore how you can use complementary colours to your advantage. To show an example, on the LEFT photo below I have not edited nothing, on the photo on the RIGHT I only did some dodge and burn (black and white) so 2 opposites, and you can clearly see how the in the edited photo she looks slimmer and her lips look bigger, but this is no magical effect, it’s just simply playing around with the colours, making them darker and brighter.

Another example I will show you is how I make this model pop out of the photo by giving the BLUE colour grading to the background and an orange colour grading to the model, viewers will think that the model is actually ‘’brighter’’ than the rest of the photo, but if you see it closely you can see that the model and the background have the same luminosity.

On the left we have the non-edited version, and on the right we have the edited version and see how the model pops out of the image, and that’s exactly what people love to see.

Complementary colours are the opposite hues on the colour wheel. In their most basic form, they are one primary colour and the secondary colour that is created by mixing the other two primaries. For instance, the complementary colour to yellow is purple, which is a mix of blue and red.

With that knowledge, it's rather easy to remember the first set of complementary colours:

yellow and purple - blue and orange -red and green

It’s all an illusion, when two complementary colours are in one photo and you use a warm colour such as Orange, reds and yellows and put them next to cold colours such as blues, greens and purples this is when you create a simultaneous contrast and both colours will appear brighter and grab a viewer's attention.

So take the colour wheel always with you, print it, save it on your phone but always have it with you, for me it has been a game changer and I use from the moment I start organizing a shooting to the moment I edit and finish a photo. Below to examples of ORANGE and BLUE colours combined.

So how do I do this in Post production?

We have seen how to set up and choose the colours for a shooting and now I will take you through some methods and techniques on how to achieve these colours in post-production .

There different ways and techniques, in Camera Raw or in Lightroom open the HSL / COLOR / B&W tab and you will see the 8 Main colours, taking the example of the original photo above, by moving the HUE colours cursors, in this case the Aqua and the green colour, and moving the cursors to the left the green colours will become an orange colour and once you find the colour you like at that point you can fix its saturation and luminosity

A lot of people ask me ‘’how do you get that creamy effect?’’, the answer to that is the colour toning, again, we are going to combine 2 complementary colours and make them blend, we are going to place the warm colour on the highlights and a cold colour on the shadows.

The photo that I am showing is without edit, fresh off camera we are going to add just a little bit of exposure, around 20% and then we will go to the colour grading tab, I normally do this part as my finishing touch.

In the colour grading tab we are going to give the highlights a touch of orange and the shadows a touch of blue and with this little tweaking you already have a photo that pops out and have a nice creamy effect.

One of my best advices that I can give you is to work a lot on the actual shooting, if you start off with a good photo it’s going to be extra easy to get the results you wish, if you start with a bad photo it’s going to remain a bad photo, I normally like shooting in the shadows, so the light on the model will always stay the same and the colours will not be ruined. Hope you learned something from this article and any further question or tips you can always contact me, I a more than happy to help.