Photographers are required to learn many tricks and techniques to turn a good photo into a great one. One of these tricks is mastering the art of contrast in images to produce striking photographs which catch the viewer’s attention.

In this article, we will discuss what contrast in photography is and how to use it effectively.

What does contrast mean in photography?

Simply put, contrasts in photography are the apparent differences between tones and colors that comprise the image. These tonal differences can be subtle or evident, and there needs to be a clear distinction between the individual elements of the photo to achieve the required results.

An example of this would be a dark or black element with a pale or white background, creating a silhouette image effect.

The contrast of colors is not the only thing that can create a successful difference. Varying textures can also make a stunning and memorable photo- for example, a harsh, rocky mountain looming over tranquil, clear water.

Expert photographers can create contrasts in their photos that involve both color and texture, using multiple elements to give the image depth and detail.

Understanding contrast in photography

Understanding contrast in photography is relatively simple, but achieving it is another matter. It is a skill to capture contrasting tonal elements through a lens, and it is something that is often developed through experience.

Basic color theory knowledge is required to obtain the desired results. For example, a color wheel chart can help you understand the relationship between different colors to determine ‘complementary colors,’ i.e., warm & cold, dark & light, etc.

Contrast is often the difference between forgettable photography and powerful photography.

Examples of contrast used in photography

A black & white photo of a piece of dry land featuring strong textures and shadows.

A green/ blue sea contrasting with dry and wet sand to create a layered effect

Types of Contrasts

Understanding tonal contrast

Tonal contrast is the most prominent form of contrast and relates to the brightness of each element within the image. The clearest examples of this can be seen in black & white photos when working with only two colors, making it the easiest way of achieving the effect.

There are many different levels of contrast, ranging from low to high.

An example of a low contrast image would not contain many white or black tones, instead featuring many middle tone elements. It can often be the case when taking a picture of a person.

Using Analogous colors

If your image features elements of a similar color, close together on the color wheel, it is important to capture clear tints and shades so the viewer can easily differentiate them. The contrast will still be quite low but still distinguishable.

Achieving contrast in photos with textures

Textures can be very effective when it comes to capturing an image with high contrast. Types include; rough, smooth, hard, soft, etc.

The background of the photoplays an important role in this case. For example, a soft background could be a blue sky or a plain wall. If neither of these elements are available, adjusting the depth to create a slight blur is recommended, while the forefront of the photo should be sharp and highly visible.

Abstract or conceptual contrasts in photos

Ideas-based contrast is a much more subjective method than traditional techniques such as tonal or textural. However, it can still be an exciting way to create a unique image that tells a story.

It might involve environmental factors, such as a natural landscape that provides a setting for a modern, artificial structure. Other techniques include new vs. old, natural vs. synthetic, or large vs. small.

This form of contrast can also extend to moods, creating a feeling of weakness, power, or fear. A high contrast type of mood photography is generally a natural or urban image, while a low contrast type might be a landscape with a hazy, dream-like feel.

Perfecting contrasts photography

Like anything, practice makes perfect when taking photos with contrast. An excellent way to start is by practicing with black & white imagery. By removing all colors, you can focus on the intensity of the light and its overall impact, thus making it easier to apply the same focus to colored photos later.

Creating your backgrounds and scenes can also be an accessible and fun way to practice. With the twitch banner maker, you can tweak the amount and type of contrast in your image. Head down to your local stationery store and invest in different colored cards to create plain backgrounds, with a contrasting object at the forefront to make strong shadows.

Once you have mastered these basic concepts, head out into real-life scenarios to put your contrasting photography skills to work.

We hope this simple guide has been useful and helped you understand the contrast in photography and hope you have fun creating different combinations to produce the perfect contrast photo.

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