If you take a look at most online photo websites, stocks, galleries, it looks like most of editors picks and awarded photos are having that cooler tone.

I don't know how to explain it better than to show two examples:

enter image description here enter image description here

This is the screenshot of todays 500px editor picks. If we ignore all the black and whites, what remains is mostly blue-ish, dark-ish, cooler photos. I marked those with a red star.

What I don't see is image like this:

enter image description here enter image description here

I am talking only about the colors and the warmth of the photo, not the content.

Is this a trend? Why is that?

  • 2
    Thank goodness the trend to make everything look like technicolor rainbows of clown vomit are behind us! If you still want to see oversaturated that look like they were shot through a CTO gel you can always just go look at the top photos on Instagram.
    – Michael C
    Aug 25, 2016 at 12:48
  • @mattdm i might agree on saturation with you. Sorry, maybe the temperature is what I am actually asking about.
    – igor
    Aug 25, 2016 at 12:50
  • @mattdm actually i just started to collect the evidence i.e. the example, but this questions is already marked for deletion, so... why bother :(
    – igor
    Aug 25, 2016 at 13:02
  • 1
    @igor The question is not "already marked for deletion," and it's not even on hold yet. I think you could rewrite it to be much more acceptable: it seems like you're asking why photo editors have chosen mostly cool, unsaturated photos, and we obviously can't get inside the heads of an undetermined group of people. Rewrite to focus more on the title question and use the editors' lists only as evidence (with several examples that are more convincing than just one gallery). Try to keep it objective, so that we don't get a bunch of opinions as answers.
    – Caleb
    Aug 25, 2016 at 13:28
  • @Caleb ok, i did what i could
    – igor
    Aug 25, 2016 at 14:08

2 Answers 2


Okay, so, while I might quibble with your example (I see some pretty bright images in there), I think there is a backlash against highly-saturated, "ultra-color" images. This is exemplified by a comment your question (which I'm quoting in case it's later deleted):

Thank goodness the trend to make everything look like technicolor rainbows of clown vomit are behind us! If you still want to see oversaturated that look like they were shot through a CTO gel you can always just go look at the top photos on Instagram.

And that's because I think it is fair to say that there is an ongoing trend for really pushed-up saturation and color. If you ever see a photography gallery in a shopping mall, I guarantee that if you agree with the dislike for this style shown in the comment, you'll want to claw your eyes out. And a lot of top-rated photography online follows this trend.

For example, very popular photography blogger (his site predates the popularity of blogging, but that's basically what it is) can't get enough saturation — see this and this and others. Now, it's possible that this is all parody (Rockwell compares his own site to satirical-news site The Onion, but for this purpose it doesn't really matter — he's either an example or else a reference that this is a popular trend.

And, so, any backlash is easy to explain — the populist taste for bright colors may be easy to fill, but it's also easy to overdo, and an easy way to set yourself as more elite is to go against it, aiming for more natural or even subtle color.

  • Very nice answer. It raises some philosophical questions, about trends, art and photographer. I agree that today you can see a lot of over-colors in populist environments, targeting our natural (animal) urge to go for more colors. So I wonder: should we learn to like the editors taste? Thank you for patience.
    – igor
    Aug 25, 2016 at 17:57
  • 2
    @igor There's nothing wrong with having aesthetic preferences that contradict the opinions of "experts". Depending on your goals for photography, you might have an independent reason to try to appeal to either "the experts" or "the masses", for example trying to get your work in an art gallery vs. trying to sell prints at a local art fair. Whatever your goals though, it's always good to challenge yourself to use different techniques than you're used to and push the envelope of your artistic comfort zone.
    – Era
    Aug 25, 2016 at 18:23
  • 1
    I have an almost full answer for that comment alone. :) In brief: You have to know what you you want to say, know your audience, know what they want, know if you care what they want, and know how to give it to them — or not. That photographer with the mall gallery knows this and is probably making a killing — even if they aren't getting critical acclaim.
    – mattdm
    Aug 25, 2016 at 18:40
  • Likewise, there are surely plenty of photographers getting critical acclaim and not putting bread on the table — and plenty of people neither selling photos nor getting well-reviewed and yet perfectly happy because they're satisfying whatever drives them to make photographs.
    – mattdm
    Aug 25, 2016 at 20:16

There are lots of possible explanations for the possible trend that you've noticed, including:

  • math: It may be that you're just looking for a set of images that are in the minority compared to the full set of photos on these sites. For example, you asked about warm, saturated colors. If photos tend to be uniformly distributed across the color temperature range and also across the saturation range, then you've already limited what you're looking for to no more than 25% of all photos, and that's only if you're willing to accept anything in the top half of both those ranges. If you're looking for photos in the top quartile of both ranges, then the photos you're looking for are about 6% of the total. So it's wouldn't be a surprise that the photos that aren't both "warm" and "saturated" are in the minority.

  • fashion: Any group of people who influence each other on subjective matters tend to be subject to trends. It could be that cooler, less saturated photos are just in style right now.

  • personal preference: The editor's picks on 500px are likely selected by a small number of people, possibly as few as just one. Perhaps the person that chose todays images just tends to prefer cooler looking images, or perhaps that's what they were in the mood for today. I don't think it'd be difficult to find curated collections of warm images on sites like 500px or Flickr.

  • no trend at all: Your assertion that warm, saturated photos appear less often might be entirely imagined. In order to really know, you'd need to decide on specific values that put a photo in that category, test all the photos in a set, and then use a statistical test to decide whether it's likely that the distribution you're seeing is just random or if there's actually a trend. People often think they see patterns in random data, and once you think you've noticed a pattern it's easily reinforced by confirmation bias.

  • seasonal: It's summertime in the northern hemisphere, which is probably where most of the people making these decisions are located. Maybe cooler colors just naturally appeal to people more in hot weather. Lighter, cooler colors are often in style during the summer for clothing.

Which, if any, of these are the real explanation? It's hard to say, but none of them lead to the conclusion that warm, saturated photos aren't considered "good."

there are exceptions, but these photo are almost always very specific.

I'm not sure what you mean by "very specific." Any particular photo is "specific" to its subject. But if being very specific is a reason for you to discount the appearance of a warm, saturated photo ("that one doesn't really count, it's too specific") then it's yet another factor that's reducing the set of acceptable photos and making it more likely that photos outside the set you're looking for will be in the majority.

Update: In your updated question, you put red stars on 46 out of 81 photos, which comes out to around 57%. I guess you could say that these have a cool tone. Your sample images aren't all that warm either -- the green of the cucumbers is decidedly blue-ish, and the tomatoes are also a blue-er red than the orangey.

  • exclude the black and whites: 12, if I remember now, and I noticed I miss few... So its closer to 3/4. Don't get me wrong, I don't know who better to explain this in the english, maybe it is also the amount of red in the photo, and/or higher contrast. For example, look at the 3rd photo from the right, in last row: the cars in the desert...
    – igor
    Aug 25, 2016 at 18:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.