Category Archives: Photography

Color Matters


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It is difficult to imagine a world without color.

Helen Keller said:

“I understand how scarlet can differ from crimson because I know that the smell of an orange is not the smell of a grapefruit…Without color or its equivalent, life to me would be dark, barren, a vast blackness…”

Yet most often, we take color for granted and often do not really see its true spectrum. Like light or air we know surrounds us, we miss the nuances. Learning about color opens eyes and enhances photographic vision.

As photographers, we focus on color and color’s narrative voice adds emotion, impact, and metaphor.

Color affects the food we eat, the clothes we wear, our purchases, our moods, even our body temperature. Marketers are well aware of the psychological and biological powers of color, and they use these factors to influence our behavior. Consider that nearly 85% of all purchases are powered by color, decisions are made within 90 seconds based on color, and color can improve reading, learning, and comprehension. (Psychology of Color, Hubspot, Lindsey Kolowich).

Dorskind Hamptons portraits

I often suggest that young children wear red shirts when photographing in a field of greenery. Red and green are complements, colors opposite each other on the color wheel (a topic thoroughly explored in both my color classes). Pairing red and green creates color harmony and adds contrast – POWer.

Read along to learn some interesting information on the colors red, yellow, and blue (pigment primary colors).


The human eye is most sensitive to red and red evokes strong emotions. Seeing the color red can raise blood pressure and stimulate appetite – that is why so many restaurants use red as wall coloring or décor. Red, an attention grabber (think stop sign), is often used in packaging to stimulate impulse buying.

Red sits on top of the rainbow and brands such as Netflix, CNN, LEGO, Canon, Adobe, and YouTube embrace the power of red in their logos.

red corporate logos

Notice how red logos pop or move forward against a white background. Red, considered a warm color moves forward. The use of black in the font adds contrast to the logo. White enhances the space of the name. Consider these same logos against a black background. I offer these logos to ignite thought. Are you using the right color in your logo and background to best convey your brand’s essence?

red corporate logos black background

Food for thought, as some photographers prefer a black background for their websites. Notice how the yellow outline in the LEGO logo creates a shimmery effect and is therefore more eye-catching. Which background do you prefer, white or black?


Yellow connotes cheerfulness, optimism, intuition, and warmth. Yellow stimulates the nervous system, encourages communication, but causes fatigue and eyestrain. For many yellow awakens our inner child – maybe we think of the yellow-rubber duckies or the happy face emoticons 😀

Yellow is used to grab attention, show clarity, and represents optimism. Notice how companies such as National Geographic, IMDb, Best Buy, Sundance Films, and Nikon incorporate yellow into their branding.

yellow corporate logos

As you can see, yellow is paired with black to enhance readability. Black and yellow grab attention as they create contrast. Think of a bumble-bee – that too is an attention grabber. Studying nature is a terrific way to connect with color theory.

Yellow is the lightest of colors and evokes warmth, therefore it is the most common color found in home décor.


Blue, perceived as a constant, represents calmness and serenity and is associated with water and peace. Arguably the most popular universal color, the color blue also curbs appetite.

Dorskind children and family portraits

Blue, a cool color, recedes, creating depth and makes a perfect background for white. This color pairing fact can be applied to clothing, still lifes, and landscapes to enhance compositions.

Why are so many corporate offices decorated with blue? Working in a blue environment is known to increase productivity. Blue also infers trust and security – a blue suit remains the symbol of professionalism. Think about how many tech and social media companies use blue for their branding. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Vimeo, Dell, and Tumblr are just a few examples of corporations reinforcing trust, reliability, and confidence with color.

blue corporate logos

While these companies use blue as the hue (another word for color), you can see that there are many shades of blue and each has its own cultural connotations. For instance, dark blue is often associated with trust, dignity, intelligence and authority, whereas, bright blue connotes coolness and strength. Blue works beautifully against a white background.

So how do these color facts fit in with your photography?

First, learning about color theory, color psychology, and color biology will sensitize you to the world and your environment. Like wearing 3-D glasses, you will see depth and added clarity and feel more alive. You will be in tune with the power of color and understand how it is affecting and influencing you.

Second, you will notice more about your color preferences and hence your photographic motivations – chances are they are not as arbitrary as supposed.

As an exercise, review your photo library surveying color. I bet you will see a pattern, a propensity for a certain color or a category such as warm tones (red, yellow) or cool tones (blue, violet).

Lastly, strategize using color on your next photo outing. If you are photographing people, think about the colors of the clothes. Create color harmony and experiment to narrate personality. In my examples, I used family and children to illustrate the color theory logic, but the theories apply to all types of photography.

Learn About Color

Quick question: Which do you prefer the cool blues or the warm reds?  Send me an email: and let’s start a conversation.

Cheryl Machat Dorskind Online Photo Classes

Join me for All About Color and More About Color (July only) and allow me to share my passion for color, a topic I have spent over ten years researching. I fell in love with the theory of color while working on my first book, The Art of Handpainting Photographs. Using washes of oil paints to enhance my photographs, I discovered the power of color and have been sharing my discoveries ever since.

Click here to read testimonials about how my color classes have impacted students’ vision.

I also teach Photographing Children Naturally, based in part on my eBook and Painting Photos at

I hope to see you in one of my online classes sometime soon!

All my best,


PS I am running a sweepstake on my FB page. I am giving away three Premium codes to a fantastic task management and to-do-list app – Todoist (yearly subscription $29 value).

Come on over to Facebook, like my page, and sign up (click the sweepstake tab) to win a fantastic tool to stay organized. Three winners will be chosen on July 15th. And of course, color labels are an intricate detail of this popular app.




Interview: Machat Dorskind & BPSOP

 Interview BPSOP & Cheryl Machat Dorskind

      1. When did you first pick up a camera and do you remember your first picture?

Cheryl Machat Dorskind photoI was intrigued by cameras as a young girl, as my dad traveled to Europe often and would bring home lots of cool gadgets. I remember the Minox 110S (early 1970s)—my dad said it was a spy camera; it fit in his shirt pocket and used tiny size film (110 – cassette).

I bought my first SLR when I was 16, having saved from babysitting and an after school job sorting envelopes by zip codes for Easter Seals mailings. I still have the camera — a Nikormat with a 105 mm f/2 lens.

I remember the first photo that hooked me and wrote about it in the introduction to The Art of Handpainting Photographs… I was 16 walking on the beach in Acapulco at sunset, mesmerized by the dramatic sherbet colored sky. I thought, “I want to photograph this.”  I returned the following day at sunset and waited for the colors to explode.

That was the first time I planned a photo session and “composing and waiting” are now integral components of my photographic style.

  1. How long have you been shooting?

I have been photographing for over four decades.

  1. Why did you choose your particular specialty

I began my photography career handpainting photographs — a black and white photo did not say enough and the colors in a color photograph were too dominant. Additionally, back then, the color photographic process was not stable; the life of a color print was not predictable. With correctly processed black and white photography, I could guarantee an archival print. And so I learned to paint onto the surface of fiber gelatin photographs, using color (washes and layers of oil paints) to add narrative and tell my photographic story.

While the technique of handcoloring photographs is as old as photography itself and quite popular now in the digital forum, back in the 80’s, it was not prevalent. With determination, I mastered the materials (oils, brushes made of cotton and sticks) and ultimately wrote the book, The Art of Handpainting Photographs, which became a best seller; it sold in museums and is considered the comprehensive guide of hand coloring traditional photographs, which I coined “Photopaintings.”

Self Portrait #4

Self Portrait #4 Handpainted Gelatin Silver Print with washes of oil paints

When I had children, I turned my camera towards my daughters, and then her friends and before you knew it, I was a child photographer and created a bustling business of handpainting photographs of children and families. I live in the Hamptons, a perfect place to have a high-end portrait business where I could offer one-of-a-kind portraiture.

Presently, I am known for my personalized and artistic portrait style and continue with a high-end clientele creating wall-art as black and white or color Giclees.


  1. As one who believes there is no one location that could be ‘the favorite,’ can you tell us what are your top three destinations for

shooting? Is there somewhere you have NOT shot but you hope to shoot there one day?

It’s really wonderful living in the Hamptons. My favorite locations to photograph are my backyard, the local beach, and new and magical spots that I discover on bike rides and walks. That said, I also love hiking and photographing in the mountains of Central Oregon and Sedona, Arizona and Zermatt, Switzerland.

SplitRock, Arizona

Smith Rock, Oregon

  1. Which, if any, photographers inspired you the most?

Margaret Bourke-White became one of the first photographers I admired. I was most drawn to her pioneering and daring spirit. Her unprecedented access to life events was a testament to her talent and self confidence.

I discovered Alfred Stieglitz, known as the father of fine-art photography in the US and read much of his enormous literary contributions (i.e. Camera Work) to the genre. He championed many artists and photographers including Georgia O’Keeffe (whom he married) and Edward Steichen who became curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art from 1947-1962.

I have a lot of respect for Minor White (profound educator) and Harry Callahan (Harry Callahan photographed his family and home environment for most of his career). Callahan became the director of the Rhode Island School of Design.

Henri Cartier Bresson’s prolific writings are rich with insights and motivations, echoing and fueling my passion as a photographer and an artist. Bresson coined the phrase “The Decisive Moment.”

“To me the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity. In order to “give meaning” to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what he frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry.”

~Henri Cartier Bresson

I was fortunate to know Allen Ginsberg (a photographer as well as the preeminent Beat poet), a friend of my husband. Allen and I spent a day together back in the 80’s at his apartment where he critiqued my work. Later that day, we photographed together in the East Village. Allen taught me many things that I have adopted into my workflow, such as always having a camera with me and using my camera as a sketchbook. Allen also helped me articulate why I was handpainting. I am deeply grateful for his probing and critical insights.

Allen Ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg, East 4th Street, NYC

Cindy Sherman became a photographer of interest in the early 80’s and I began my own series of self-portraits thanks to her inspiration. Two of my self-portraits were used as book covers on Ann Beattie’s novels.

6) Where have you NOT shot but you hope to shoot there one day?

I would like to photograph in Alaska, Machu Picchu, Peru, and explore New Zealand.

  1. How do you create income from your work, e.g. gallery sales, stock, assignment, workshops, books etc.?

I derive income from commission work (portraits, photo restoration, interiors), Hamptons’ workshops (photo safaris and private classes), online teaching at BPSOP, College (I am an assistant professor and have even teaching at the college level for over 20 years) online mentoring through a program I developed called FAME (Fine Art Mentoring Expertise), exhibitions, and books (I have written three books, The Art of Handpainting Photographs, The Art Photographing Children, and my first and brand new eBook, Photographing Children Naturally.)

Photographing Children Naturally by Cheryl Machat Dorskind

Photographing Children Naturally eBook by Cheryl Machat Dorskind (click image to purchase)

  1. What one thing fuels your photographic passion more than anything else?

Light and color, their essential play, fuel my photographic passion as well as my desire to share what I am seeing and experiencing.

  1. Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration through reading, watching movies, talking to friends, chatting on social media, taking MOOC classes, joining webinars, learning new software and most importantly teaching.  As Dave Mathews says, “And when you give, you get the world.” 

Buddha Garden

  1. Although it is for me personally, the least interesting, others I am sure want to know what camera system/equipment you use, Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fuji, Pentax. Do you have a favorite lens?

I use Canon gear for my pro work —I have a 5d M II and will buy the IV when it comes out this year. My go-to lens is the 24-105 f/4L mm lens. I also have a 70-200 f/4L and a 17-24 f/4L mm lens. I love my Black Rapid strap and Lowepro slim bag for walking around with my “pro” gear. I keep a Canon G15 in my purse as well as my iPhone 6.

Working in a business that has a gadget buying frenzy element, I use willpower and often remind myself that it is my vision that matters, not the camera. As Dorothea Lange says, “The camera teaches us to see without a camera.” Many of my photo friends are into the mirrorless cameras, but I have not found one that I would rather have than my purse size Canon G series or the Canon DSLR 5Ds. However, when I do make it to one of my travel dreams, I will probably buy a mirrorless camera and only pack one lens.

In addition to cameras, I have a few computers, iPads, and lots of software. I make it a point to stay up to date with the latest Adobe products and I even learned how to work with HTML5 coding. 

  1. What, if any, advice do you have for our BPSOP members?

My advice to bpsop members is to photograph often and pay attention to what type of photography you like. What do you feel excited about? The act of capturing is very much the process of photography. If you are involved in the subject with your heart and mind, connected and absorbed—then there you go. That is your passion.

For more information, please visit my website, subscribe to my blog or join me for one of the classes I teach at BPSOP (All About Color, Photographing Children: Rising to the Challenge, and Painting Photos).


Westhampton Beach, a place I never tire of photographing