In the Road of Trials section, we were introduced to basic colour. In this heightened awareness portion of our journey, we take the edge off of colour by studying tints, tones and shades. While photographers don’t actually mix and create colours the way a painter would, it’s still important to understand that we associate feelings with tints, tones and shades, and that there are messages we can communicate about those feelings for our audience.

Adding white to a basic colour or hue, creates a tint that we think of as a pastel colour: add white to red to create the pastel colour pink add even more white and get misty pink. Pastel colours or tints, are lighter than their original hue. Pinks are lighter than red. Pastels are soft, warm and feminine. And warm colours elicit warm feelings. Tints are delicious and discreetly elegant – pink lace, mellow yellow, coral, powder blue and lavender blush. However, pastel colours are not a magic bullet. The photographer still has the responsibility for ensuring that an image has proper lighting, an interesting subject and strong lines. Pastel colours though, are a value added expression of heightened awareness. Tranquility is a feeling and pastel is its colour.

With tones, made famous by the nature photographer Ansel Adams, we add grey to a colour hue, creating a muddier pastel colour. If the colour pink, a pastel or tint, is light red, then one of the tones for red can be thought of as middle red. The colour salmon is a good example. It’s not pink and it’s not dark red. It’s pink with a bit of grey. From visual design we learn that tones are pleasing to the eye. An artist will often mix a little grey with every color on their pallet to improve the value and intensity of their pigment. Photographers see tones as a reduced amount of light in a particular area. Tones are softer than their original hue as a result, are complex, subtle and sophisticated.

A shade is created by adding black to a colour hue. Shades are darker that their original hue. Think dark red, dark sienna, olive green and charcoal. We see shades as deep, powerful and mysterious.

We see lines, shapes and patterns as contrasts of colour, tints, tones and shades. Heightened awareness requires that we understand how each of these will inform the mood of our composition. As we learned from the Moody Blues, it’s a question of balance.

Click on an image below to start a full screen slideshow where you can explore the colour world of tints, tones and shades.

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A Question of Balance, the 6th album of the Moody Blues, recorded in 1970 under the Threshold Records label.

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