Working with a limited color palette

One of the primary problems with getting good photos of Cahaba lilies is that you are working with a limited palette of mostly green and white. If we run a web search of Cahaba lilies it looks something like this:

If we take this group of photos as a whole and summarize the color relationships it looks something like this:


This lack of color variety gives us low color interest. Furthermore, green is the least interesting color to the human eye because we see so much of it in nature. Working with it as the main color presents a challenge to overcome to get interesting Cahaba lily photos. Now let's examine three ways to do that. 

Introduce a third color into the composition.

Adding more colors sounds obvious but most amateur photographers take photos without even thinking about color relationships. Actually it's hard to do with Cahaba lily photos because quite often everywhere you turn is green. If we were to remove the woman with her blue clothing and gold staff the limited color relationships would become boring.

Below are two photos that utilize blue sky and its reflections to overcome the preponderance of green. Blue is not the best color to compliment green but if you have a strong composition it can work. 


Early morning offers color possibilities that will be gone for the rest of the day. You don't see many multicolored photos of Cahaba lilies like the one by Keith Bozeman because you have to be in the river very early and because Cahaba Lily season doesn't offer many sunrises as colorful as this. 

This photo © Keith Bozeman

Eliminate the color problem with black & white. 

The Cahaba lily is an excellent subject for black & white photography and I'm surprised I don't see more of it. When the landscape offers a beautiful subject but you simply can't introduce color variety, B&W solves the problem by composing with value instead of color. Also, there are times when colors in a landscape don't work well together and B&W is the only solution.


Minimize the effect of green with something more pronounced.

When the main color you are working with is green you need to find ways to minimize it. In this photo there is more green than any other color but the graphic white lilies and colored stamen draw attention from it. Also we have two distinct hues of green which helps. Also, when editing the photo some of the green can be muted a bit to make it draw less attention.

In the next photo green is the main color but there is so much else going on that the lack of color variety becomes unimportant. Graphic shapes and lines draw more attention than color so the predominance of green has a minimal effect.