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Emotions and Colours: Effects, Moods, Associations and Favourites; Use in Photography

Ann is interested in the Arts, particularly the connections between them. Colours, music and emotions are essential within the arts.

Boutet's Colour Wheel


Which colours connect to which emotions? We talk about ‘a red rag to a bull’ and ‘green with envy’. But do our emotions themselves conjure up these colours? I’m going to look at how we decide to use which particular colour to represent our feelings.

Negative and Mist

Negative of me on a swing, with someone pushing me - you fill in the gaps!

Negative of me on a swing, with someone pushing me - you fill in the gaps!

Big Ben in the Mist - how does this make you feel?

Big Ben in the Mist - how does this make you feel?

I’m a keen photographer, taking after my Dad who enthused me with his passion for the craft. He had a dark-room in which to print his own work and also experimented with certain ways of manipulating the original negative. This would create mood, so one photo could be given diverse interpretations – who said the camera never lies?

Black and White Texture

Texture of fungi

Texture of fungi

Moods in Photography

A gifted photographer can catch a mood in any type of shot, given that he or she must be in the right place at the right time, without using any chemicals or touch-up techniques. Add a talent for composition, an eye for a good angle of light and good observation to catch the unusual, then you graduate to excellence.

Black and white can be used to great effect, if one wants stark impact, to convey a direct message, or if it’s blurred to create mystery. Find texture and you offer another dimension. I love this flowery fungus. The photo is full of texture; I can find at least four. This is when we start to affect emotion.


My Father's Parents (on their wedding day I think)

My Father's Parents (on their wedding day I think)

Sepia was the brown tint first used for ‘colour’, now deliberately used to recreate age and a sense of nostalgia. I have treasured photos of great-grandparents in sepia and I go all misty-eyed when I see them.

Ok, it’s nostalgia, but it’s also seeing people from long ago in a reality that’s a little familiar. Emotions are mixed. I’d love to ask them questions, to have known them, to find out what traits I might have inherited from them. I feel love, the tug of family ties, and a strange sense of protection.

Rose-tinted cheeks!

Little Me with Rosy Cheeks

Little Me with Rosy Cheeks


Some photos of me as a baby were done by a ‘professional’, alongside those that my father took. Those professional prints were ‘touched-up’, as often happened, to give a baby rosy cheeks, or to highlight the colour of the hair. Was this to give a false image of that person or was it to make them look their best, to enhance the best feature or to give delight to the observer, the receiver of the photograph perhaps?

Favourite Colour?

What’s your favourite colour? Why? What emotions does that colour evoke in you?

Mine is green, the colour of plants and trees (another specific favourite of mine), soothing in most of its shades. It is a principal colour of nature - dark glossy holly leaves, paler elegant willow leaves, the specific green of grass on a chalky downland. It shelters memories and stores an album of past images.

How Many Greens?

Greens, greens, greens

Greens, greens, greens


Pale, pastel green soothes me, a vivid lime will awaken my senses and make me feel alive or full of fun. A dark bottle-green will make me feel mellow; it’s a winter colour which comforts me and reminds me of mediaeval times. If I see a mint green, I can smell the mint, not because I’m a synesthete but because my memory conjures up that smell for me; it is a familiar one and it pleases my senses.

Sadly, green is also the colour of envy, though I don’t know why - is it the frequency of its sound waves? Research into coloured noises says that

‘green noise… has been described as a signal with more energy concentrated in the middle of the sound spectrum…; it supposedly simulates the ambient noise of nature.’ (Neal)

Well, that fits my preference for green and my love of nature!

The idiom ‘green with envy’, is believed to have been coined by William Shakespeare. In Othello, Iago warns Othello of jealousy, “the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”

Red and Blue

Red is the colour of anger, a ‘red rag to a bull’ makes him go berserk. But why? Colours influence emotions but so, too, do emotions have some bearing on colours. We ‘see red’ when we’re angry, presumably because the blood rushes to the head, or the surface, and our skin tends to go red.

Blue, for some, conjures up feelings of cold, or is associated with something risqué. I find a pale blue in a room very cold and unwelcoming; a warm hyacinth blue is good though.

Here are a few thoughts on colour, quotes from the well-known.

Quotes regarding 'Colour'

‘Mere colour, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways.’ Oscar Wilde

Colour is a matter of taste and of sensitivity.’ Edouard Manet

‘Colours speak all languages.’ Joseph Addison

'I advise students on the subject of colour as follows: If it looks good enough to eat, use it.' Abe Ajay (now there's a overlap of senses!)

'If one says 'red' - the name of color - and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.' Josef Albers

'I can smell it already, what color I have on my palette...' Bill Alexander (more senses!)

'Color... thinks by itself, independently of the object it clothes.' Charles Baudelaire

'You put down one color and it calls for an answer. You have to look at it like a melody.' Roomier Bearden (music!)

'Drawing is feeling. Color is an act of reason.' Pierre Bonnard

'Color is the language of the poets. It is astonishingly lovely. To speak it is a privilege.' Keith Crown

'They call me mellow yellow...' Donovan

'Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.' Paul Gauguin

Colours of my Name

First line - my favourite; Second line - next best alternative

First line - my favourite; Second line - next best alternative

I’ll leave you with a thought. I have tried putting colours to my name, each letter with a different colour so that I have a combination that suits my eye. I like bright pink with green and I like purple with yellow. My preference is the first; it sits well with my emotions.

Try doing the same, if the idea takes your fancy, and see what you come up with. If you wish to share the result, even better!

I hope your world is a beautiful, peaceful colour today.


© 2021 Ann Carr

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