Complementary Colors: Yellow and violet are complementary colors located across from each other on the color wheel. Richly saturated or pale tints of yellow and violet, when paired together create color harmony.

Yellow Color Meaning

Daffodils, forsythia, buttercups, lemons, bumble bees, tulips, butter, bananas, ducks, sunflowers, taxis, “third prize,” sunshine, the road not taken, yellow submarine, yellow brick road, pencils.

Few colors have yellow’s ambivalence. Sometimes the hue (another word for color) evokes energy, spirituality, hope, happiness, warmth, sunlight, and enlightenment and at other times yellow color connotes envy, danger, sickness, madness and deceit.

Yellow, the lightest of colors, has long been enamored by artist. The works of Vincent Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne transverse the yellow spectrum ranging from canary yellow, lemon chiffon and gold to ochre and raw sienna. Like many painters, photographers celebrate yellow — it is our natural light paint brush.


With Van Gogh’s painting “Rain – La Pluie” in mind, (having seen it at the Philadelphia Museum or Art), I photographed this field of sunflowers in the rain. (If you look closely you will see the rain scratching the foreground). I created a yellow border to frame the image.


The afternoon light in my bedroom is a photographer’s dream. I have fun setting up still lives and have been doing this for years. Canon 5 D M II; Canon 24-105 mm f/4L @ 58 mm; f/5 @ 1/80, ISO 1250, manual exposure mode.

I did not have time to set up a tripod as I knew the glow would last only minutes. I raised the ISO to a fast speed to capture the dancing sunlight. This image is straight out of the camera, (no post processing), and a wonderful example of yellow light.


I have been creating self portraits since the beginning of my photography career. Here I am posing for a magazine commission. This is a handpainted silver gelatin photograph. I teach how to use painterly effects in my Painting Photos class (and online mentoring). Students can use the digital brush or create gorgeous Giclees and add artist’s mediums (pastels and oils).

Adding light yellow oil paint to the walls (the image was originally black and white), enhances the feeling of calm and warmth.


I was mesmerized by the golden yellow marsh and wetlands. Canon 5D M II; Canon 17-40 mm f/4L lens @ 28mm; tripod: ISO 320, f/18 @ 1/160, manual exposure mode


IPhone: ISO 80, 1/800 @ f/2.8

Having put my pro gear away, I continued the drive on Dune Road in the Hamptons, NY and the yellow colors continued their spectacular display. Below is an image captured just 15 minutes later with my iPhone.

Yellow Color Theory

Yellow is a pigment primary and a light secondary. It is a warm color and sits adjacent to orange and red on the color wheel. Violet is its complement. Yellow stimulates the nervous system, encourages communication, but can causes fatigue and eyestrain. Yellow often energizes and for many, seeing the color yellow awakens their inner child. Consider the properties of yellow I have discussed and work the color strategically into your compositions and empower your photography.


This is the YRB (yellow, red, and blue) color wheel. Yellow, the lightest of colors often is depicted on top. The color wheel is rich with color theory information. Join me for an online class and I will teach you all about color and how to use it to create better photos.

Family beach photos

Dressing a child in a yellow shirt adds happiness and warmth to the image. Canon 5D MII; Canon 24-105 mm f4L; 105 mm, f18 @ 1/120 ISO 125 +.33, aperture priority


Yellow, the lightest color on the spectrum, appears nearly white in its lightest tint. Painting the scene with the correct camera exposure (and post processing) adds just the right ambiance, narrating love and happiness.

Canon 5D MII; Canon 24-105 mm f4L, f10 @1/160 +.33, ISO 320; aperture priority exposure.


Join me for All About Color to learn about color properties, the color wheel, and how to enhance your compositions using color theory and color psychology. I will also be offering the sequel, More About Color this July and October.

– BPSOP Instructor: Cheryl Machat Dorskind

Cheryl Teaches:

Painting Photos

Photographing Children Naturally

The Art of Self Portraiture

All About Color

More About Color

This article is adapted from Cheryl Machat Dorskind’s blog: cherylmachatdorskind.com/blog