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ColorTALK with Jay Maisel – When color moves me, that’s when I shoot.


by Sandra Kehoe – October 3rd, 2015

Renowned Photographer, Educator, Author and X-Rite Coloratti, Jay Maisel shares his philosophy on color and the critical role it plays in his work.

“Color does not function alone. One color doesn’t mean any thing. Color is about the interaction of color, so it’s extremely important not just to think how many colors I have but how they interact with each other. Certain colors will make other colors do other things.” – Jay Maisel

Two Kinds of Color

“There are two kinds of color – there’s additive color, which is what the impressionists used. You put blue next to yellow and your eye turns it green. That’s additive color. Then there’s a thing called subtractive color, which means that if you put a red on top of a green the red becomes more red and the green becomes more green because they are opposites.”

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What kind of color attracts you?

“You have to figure out what kind of color attracts you? What floats your boat? Maybe you like very intense colors or maybe you like pastels? When I have students, I ask them why they’re taking the course and what they’re hoping to get in their photograph and a great many of them, those who are more articulate than the others, will talk about feelings and emotion. They don’t just want to take pictures that are pretty or graphically interesting, but they do want to take pictures that will make people feel something and that is really all areas.”

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Color moves me.

“My motivation is really terribly unsophisticated. Basically it’s like wow, look at that great color! And I’m gonna shoot it, and that’s it! I don’t make the color, I don’t create the color, I don’t do anything but react to the color. I think that what makes people feel something, is if you feel something, so you have to in some way, get your thoughts and your feelings into their head. And if you do that and you’re successful, then your pictures won’t just be on the surface, the viewer will really feel something about the pictures. You just have to choose the things that move you because you have to have fun, you have to do the things you love. When I see color move me, that’s when I photograph.”

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Matching Colors on different Devices

“Color for me, exists and the only thing one has to do about color is to learn what kind of colors you like and what color does. If you’re in a green room and you look at white, it looks magenta, so everything is relative to everything else in terms of color. The eye becomes acclimated to color. So if for example, you are driving in the Lincoln Tunnel and they have yellow bulbs up, that’s fine and then they turn to blue and you say oh my God, its Blue! But then after you’ve been there a while, the eye acclimates again. You have to have a frame of reference to know what color is doing.”

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I get very emotional if the color doesn’t match on the different devices, I’ll tell you that!

“If your monitors and your laptop and the computer that somebody else is using, and working with you, if they don’t agree with each other, you’re gonna have a lot of… ‘It’s not the color I want!  Well, what color do you want? Well, I’m seeing it on my computer.  Yeah, well on my computer it’s different!’ …and then a war starts. It’s really important that you both be playing from the same chart and that you must agree on what a red is and if you get outside of the parameters on one device and you’re not outside of the parameter on the other device, that makes war, so to that degree it’s really important that the things do match each other. I get very emotional if the color doesn’t match on the different devices, I’ll tell you that!”

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Jay uses X-Rite solutions to manage color in his digital print workflow.



© 2007 Photo by Jeff Schewe

Books by Jay Maisel

jay   Light, Gesture and Color (Voices that matter)



Screen Shot 2015-10-03 at 2.00.08 PM It’s not about the F-Stop (Voices that matter)





Categories: Color Management, Color Talk, Color Tip, Coloratti, Monitor Calibration, workflow | Tags: , , , ,

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