Feature photo by Shilpa Harolikar
Colorful doors are a photographer’s best friend. They can add a pop of color on a drab day, frame your subject beautifully or be used as a storytelling element to draw the viewer in. They can be symbolic, iconic or just pretty. Colorful doors can add dimension, line and scale to your frame. Or, they can stand alone as fun subjects to photograph on your travels or in your own neighborhood.
Here’s how pro photographers use colorful doors as compositional elements of photography.
1. Frame your subject in the door.
“Creating a frame for your subject within the overall frame of your image draws the viewer’s eye right to the subject.”
— Alicia Bruce
Photo location: Paris, France
Camera: Canon EOS 6D; Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM; Focal length: 50mm; Settings: f/2.5, 1/1000, ISO 160
2. Create a balanced composition with straight lines.
“When photographing a door, great composition and symmetry are key. Center compositions work well, but doors can be equally compelling off center and balanced by another object, such as a person or a window. Being just a little off kilter with your straight lines will jump out at the viewer. To straighten an image in Adobe Lightroom, use the ‘auto’ button under ‘transform.’ This will properly align most photos, but if you need to do a bit more tweaking, use the horizontal slider.” — Sunny Mays
Photo location: Santorini, Greece
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Tokina 16-28mm; Focal length; 26mm; Settings: f/3.2, 1/1250, ISO 100
3. Embrace the story of what’s beyond the door.
“Doortraits are very popular where I am. Not only because there is really neat, old architecture around town, but also because there is a mystery to the beyond. Doors naturally draw the eye as a gateway element to your story.”
— Larissa Lord
Photo location: Charleston, South Carolina
Camera: Fujifilm X-T20; Focal length: 16mm; Settings: f/3.5, 1/1000, ISO 250
4. Draw the viewer into the frame.
“Doors are perfect for framing a subject, or can provide interest with a strong pop of contrasting or complementary color. I often like a straight-on, center composition as it gives the viewer a feeling of being in the moment, ready to walk through the door.” — Nadeen Flynn
Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Canon EF 24-105L; Settings: f/4.5, 1/100, ISO 100
5. Use colorful doors to add contrast.
“I love finding a colorful door to use as a backdrop or to add a pop of color in a more muted environment. This photo was taken in the winter when there was no gorgeous warm light or beautiful greenery, so it was important to find a pop of color. This colorful door works well to add interest to the image.” — Melissa Richard
Photo location: Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada
Camera: Nikon D610; Lens: Sigma 35mm; Settings: f/1.4, 1/160, ISO 100
6. Play with texture and patterns to spice up your photos.
“Colorful doors provide opportunities to play with textures, color, contrast, patterns, natural framing and scale while making a photograph. I love that all these elements can be used to spice up an image and make it interesting, even when the light is less than ideal.” — Shilpa Harolikar
Photo location: Trim, Ireland
Camera: Fujifilm X-T20; Lens: Fujinon 23mm; Settings: f/4, 1/500, ISO 320
7. Watch for interesting monochrome moments.
“If ever there was a master of color, it was Claude Monet. This image was shot in Monet’s own garden, at his home in Giverny. This was the color he loved for his doors.” — Sarah Keene
8. Watch for contrasting colors in street photography.
“In street photography, keep your eyes out for contrasting colors. Here, the pop of yellow is framed against these gorgeous blue garage doors along the streets of Santa Barbara, California.” — Katie Golobic
Photo location: Santa Barbara, California
Camera: Nikon D810; Lens: Tokina 16-28mm; Settings: f/11, 1/250, ISO 500
9. Fill the frame with color.
“Get closer and fill the frame with color using the door as a backdrop for your subject. Find a colorful door that complements something on your subject, whether it’s clothing, an accessory or even hair. By being intentional with your color choice, it will tie the entire image together.” — Alicia Bruce
Photo location: Paris, France
Camera: Canon EOS 6D; Focal length: 85mm; Settings: f/2.2
10. Look for iconic doors to show a sense of place.
“There are few doors more iconic than those of a red British telephone booth. While I typically like to include the entirety of a colorful door, the instantly recognizable nature of this door provided me the opportunity for a unique, landmark-based, closeup portrait.” — Sarah Keene
Photo location: Trafalgar Square, London, United Kingdom
Camera: Canon EOS 6D; Lens: Canon 24-70 f/2.8L; Settings: f/5, 1/400, ISO 1000
11. Sometimes color is the story.
“I only had a hot second to snap two quick photos before a security guard told me to stop taking photos.” — Sunny Mays
Photo location: Tokyo, Japan
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Tokina 16-28mm; Focal length: 28mm; Settings: f/6.3, 1/250, ISO 5000
12. Look for color opposites.
“When I saw the gorgeous blue color of these blue doors against the faded red brick, I had to get a photo! I used a rule-of-thirds composition to include more of the brick wall.” — Kaela Elliott
Photo location: Savannah, Georgia
Camera: Nikon D750; Lens: Nikon 35mm f/1.8; Settings: f/4.5, 1/320, ISO 500
13. Frame your subject in color.
“Using color to frame your subject can really make them stand out. These beautiful red barn doors worked perfectly to highlight my subject.” — Erica Williams
Photo location: Cumby, Texas
Camera: Nikon D700, Lens: Sigma 35 f/1.4; Settings: f/2.8, 1/500, ISO 250
14. Use doors as a design element in your frame.
“I love to use colorful doors as elements of design and composition.” — Monica Cutraro
Photo location: Houston, Texas
Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III; Lens: Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM; Settings: f/2.8, 1/500, ISO 200
More photography composition inspo:
Photographing colorful doors is a trend too fun to ignore! Find more photography composition tips, tutorials and inspiration on our Pinterest boards! While you’re there, follow us to see all the fun photography stuff we pin. Drop us your Pinterest info in the comments and we’d love to follow you back. Oh, and here are some articles we think you’ll love: