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What Color is Green?

What color is Green? A strange question to be sure, but nevertheless worthy of some explanation. As a way to help describe color we can break it up into the following 3 separate categories:


A technical term for color, Hue is the actual name of the color. So a red apple has a red hue, while a yellow banana displays a yellow hue.


Also called chroma or intensity, Saturation refers to the vividness or purity of a particular hue (color).

The higher the saturation, the cleaner or purer the resulting hue. A de-saturated hue, sometimes referred to as a pastel, is lower in saturation due to it having grey mixed into it. The more grey present, the lower the saturation.

Images featuring hues that are relatively high in saturation will likely produce a more visually dynamic result. So, if you’re looking for high impact, saturated hues are well worth considering. Conversely, if you’re trying to communicate a more tranquil or peaceful mood then de-saturated hues may be the way to go. 


Also called brightness or value, Luminance describes the overall lightness or darkness of a particular hue. The actual luminance of an object’s hue is relative to the conditions under which it is encountered or displayed.












Both light colours and dark colours can be either high or low in saturation. However, as light colours are brighter than dark colours, a highly saturated yellow will display more luminance than a highly saturated blue.












Both black and white are hues with no saturation. However, white displays high luminance, while black contains a very low level of luminance.

Imagine you’re planning to paint your house a very vivid red. On the day of the job you realise you’ve underestimated how much paint you’re going to need. You simply don’t have enough of the highly saturated, pure red paint to complete the job. But it’s a public holiday and the Queen is coming for tea late tomorrow afternoon. You remember you have a fair supply of white paint in the shed. You decide to mix that into the red paint so as to make it go further. The resulting color is pink, which is a de-saturated red.

With the job done you begin work on the cucumber sandwiches.

Just before the queen arrives the sun comes out, placing the side of the house into bright sunshine. However a long white cloud (did I mention you are a New Zealand resident) places the front of the house into shade. As a result each side of the building has the same hue (color) and level of saturation. However, due to the bright sunshine, the brighter side of the house displays a higher level of luminance than that of the shadow side.

The next thing that happens is that a beam of light hits the shaded front of the building, producing a hot spot. That spot is less saturated, since the hue has been diluted with a lot of white light.

Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M series Aspherical lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

Leica M6 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M series Aspherical lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

So what color is Green? You’ll notice how the appearance of the fern in the above image changes depending on how it is lit. The light has, therefore, directly affected the hue, saturation and luminance of the fern.

© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography 


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