Photographers can choose from a wide range of colors to create an image, but out of all the colors availabe to them, one stands out—red. This color has much more presence than others due to its signaling effect on the human eye. A vivid shade of red is perfect for drawing the viewer’s attention to a particular motif or section of the picture.

© WALTER G. ALLGÖWER/Westend61

No other color is associated with as strong emotions as red. It stands not only for joy, eroticism, and passion, but also for anger and aggression; it stands for life, energy, warmth and for the fire of love as well as a flaming inferno and imminent danger. Everywhere in the world, across all cultural and linguistic borders, red is understood as a warning color, drawing the viewer’s attention to potential dangers. This applies both in human communication—think of traffic signs or traffic lights—and in the animal kingdom. It isn’t coincidence that poisonous animals and plants often use red to signal, “Don’t come too close to me!” A particularly interesting example is the small, but highly venomous spider, the Black Widow, who has combined on its body the color black, meaning death, and red as the color of danger, and with good reason…

Sometimes red can be a bit creepy. After all, it also stands for deliberately or accidentally spilled blood.

© RAMON ESPELT/Westend61

© MIRIAM DÖRR/Westend61

But, of course, we are more interested in the positive side of the spectrum because we want to enjoy beautiful pictures. Not only does red arouse strong emotions, it also sets strong accents in images that are otherwise dominated by shades of gray and white or subtler colors in general.

© GEMMA FERRANDO/Westend61

In the field of sports, red stands for vigor, action, and sometimes an appetite for risk.

© DANIEL WASCHNIG PHOTOGRAPHY/Westend61

© JO KIRCHHERR/Westend61

© RAMON ESPELT/Westend61

The current winter photos show off red tones particularly well, as this color, more than any other, symbolizes the warmth we long for during the cold season. And a warm red is all the more effective when it contrasts the cold white of ice and snow.

© RAMON ESPELT/Westend61

© MAREEN FISCHINGER/Westend61

You feel as though you would like to pour yourself a (naturally red) mulled wine…. Additionally, when combined with a rather cool-looking blue, a warm red is shown to its best advantage.

© SCOTT MASTERTON/Westend61

Also interesting is the contrast red-green, which, according to color psychology, puts the action and dynamism of red next to the calming and balancing effect of green, creating a certain tension.

Not all reds are the same: The fiery and explosive glow of a volcanic eruption illustrates the fascinating, but sometimes destructive, power of nature.

© MARTIN RIETZE/Westend61

The purple red of the “Lady in Red”, on the other hand, exudes an aura of sensual, but also somewhat wicked desire.

© FOTOAGENTUR WESTEND61/Westend61

In its pink color, red is an expression of impudent and provocative self-confidence. As a delicate pink, on the other hand, red appears soothing and romantic. In the world of fashion, too, the color serves to set the wearer of a red garment apart, distinguishing her from her surroundings. This applies not only to the ladies’ world, with which red is generally associated,

© UWE UMSTÄTTER/Westend61

but also to fashion-conscious men who like to underline their appearance with a red tie as a textile exclamation mark.

© GIORGIO FOCHESATO/Westend61

Red sets a special accent when it comes to man-made objects amid the wildness of nature: the classic British telephone booth in the seclusion of the Scottish Highlands;

© LYZS/Westend61

the functional jacket of a mountain biker under the steel-blue sky of an alpine panorama;

© HANS HUBER/Westend61

a modern trekking backpack in timeless natural beauty.

© FOTOFEELING/Westend61

It is quite clear that advertising uses the attention-grabbing element of red in an unmistakable variety; one only has to take a look at how many products are designed using red, which alone ensures a high recognition value for the product. For advertising photography, however, this does not mean throwing out the entire bucket of paint: good and high-quality pictures live from the discreet but carefully thought out use of such designs. They do not “slay” the viewer with a dominant shade of color, but rather accentuate it all the more when it is carefully merged and interacting with other colors.