Diane Wehr Street Photography

Dedicated to Street

A Street Photography Blog

Red Always Works

Click picture for a larger image.


I like lists. I really like them. One of my lists is called, “You Can’t Go Wrong With This.” It is a list of things that seem to me to be surefire winners whenever they are part of a street photography composition.  In an earlier blog, I extolled the virtues of rain and umbrellas. It is hard to go wrong with either one of those. You can add snow to that group because it is also a viewer pleaser. It seems bad weather is a call to street photographers that it is time to go out and start shooting.

The color red is also on the sure-fire winner list. You can hardly go wrong by including it in a composition. Why would that be?

Photo by Vicki Windman. Used with permission. This striking composition uses repeating reds. You can see more of Vicki’s street photography on her Instagram account @vbarn106. Click picture for a larger image.

First, there is biology acting. Red captures our attention. It is the second color that our eyes see, after yellow. Red focuses behind the retina, which forces the lens in our eye to grow more convex to pull the image forward. That may cause us to perceive that red images are moving forward.

Bicycling in Paris. Click picture for a larger image.

 Red is a color that has been shown in psychological studies to have emotion-eliciting properties.

 It can create negative, danger bearing emotions perhaps because of our association of red with blood or anger.

It is known to raise metabolism, which in turn raises your appetite. Restaurants sometimes capitalize on that by using red in their decor.

Red can raise awareness because it is one of the most visible colors. Think about its use for road signs, traffic lights and fire engines.

Photo by Dr. Neil Goodwin. Used with permission. A combination of good luck and perfect timing yielded this reflection which uses a red triangle to frame the subject. You can see more of Neil’s street photography in his Instagram account @drneilgoodwin and his website, www.neilgoodwinphotography.org/. Click picture for a larger image.

In nature, red is a signal of attractiveness. In humans, tests show that when the opposite sex is wearing red clothing they are perceived to be more sexually attractive.

Red is the color of power.  It is not surprising that 77% of all flags include the color red.

The flag of Albania. Click picture for a larger image.

In Asia, red is the color of good luck. In Russia it is the color of beauty. In some parts of Africa it is the color of mourning. In Japan it is the traditional color of heroism.

I will leave you with this thought from Paul Rand, a professor of graphic design at Yale, “If you can't make it good, make it big. If you can't make it big, make it red.”


 Look through your images. Are you using red as a compositional tool?