Essential Guide to Using Contrast In Photography

Essential Guide to Using Contrast In Photography

It takes quite a bit of effort to be a skilled photographer. Expertise in different topics is necessary in order to shoot a perfect photo. This is the main reason why we are here. Talking of the main constituents of a good photo, contrast is one of the first things that you should care about. We are here to talk about this subject matter in detail. Let us get started by talking about the meaning of contrast in photography first.

What does contrast mean in photography?

Talking of its meaning, contrast is the availability of dissimilarity between different elements present in the photo. When there are multiple elements in the composition, it is very important to make one element different from the others based on its priority. It is something of very high value when you are planning to bring life to the image. These dissimilar elements might be present in the form of light, colours, textures, shadows, and tones.

The basket that you can choose the subject from has grown up to insane levels in photography. That kind of complexity and abundance makes amateurs often forget about the importance of contrast in photography. It takes quite a bit of effort to adjust the visual ratio to sufficient levels. Let us throw a bit more light on its importance in the next paragraph.

Black & White contrast photography example

Why is contrast important in photography?

Talking of the importance of contrast in photography, it is something that keeps the elements in your photo from looking flat. There are certainly different elements of different colours in a photo and it is the contrast that enables viewers to see those differences easily. And the contrast is not only about black and white.

In fact, it can be present in the form of textures, etc. Understanding contrast lets your photo interact with the viewers in a better way. Learning to master this aspect of interaction with the viewers is definitely a worthy skill in this business.

We all know that photos are 2-D objects but they are able to portray things in three dimensions. Contrast is one of the key elements that brings depth and adds another dimension to the photograph.

This way contrast is something that helps you make photos more engaging and realistic. Upon learning the right way to use contrast, you can always be able to enhance the look and other aspects of a photo.

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How is contrast used in photography?

There are a large number of ways to use contrast in photography. Talking about all of them is not possible in this concise article but here is a quick look at the important ones.

Photograph sharp shadows on a bright day

A bright sunny day gives you intense opportunities to shoot photos with better contrast with shadows as your subject. The thing is, the best shadows are created by the brightest of lights.

This is the situation that brings the possibility of shooting photos with the best contrast in the easiest ways.

Use contrast for different moods

Colours affect the mood of individuals at different levels. Wise use of contrast to highlight your subject in a way that it portrays some emotions. A large number of subjects are available there that symbolise strength and other emotions.

Use those subjects and proper contrasts to convey a particular message. In case, you want something like vintage, you can do that easily by using colours

Use the colour wheel

The colour wheel is capable of giving you all the information about creating contrast in different ways inside the frame. In order to use colours in different ways, you need to be aware of a large number of colours. With a large number of colours in your basket, you can create contrast in different ways.

Simply place light/bright objects near dark coloured objects. It will help you shoot photos with high contrast. On the other hand, fill the frame with similar coloured objects for photos with low contrast.

Sometimes, the desired subjects will not have the kind of contrast that you want. Opting for the right filter will simplify things for you. Whether it is a vintage filter or any other, they will help you in achieving the desired contrast with any subject and colour arrangement.

Go for silhouette

Silhouette is a type of photography where you capture something of dark colour with a light background. In other words, it is a great way of shooting photos with the best contrast. For getting the best results in silhouette photography, go for subjects that have well-defined outlines. The goal is to make the subjects stand out from the background in the frame.

Colour contrast photography example

What is tonal contrast in photography?

There are several types of contrast i.e. conceptual, colour, low, high, tonal, etc. Of all these, tonal contrast is something that you should care about the most. You can bring tonal contrast to the image if you bring a light tone alongside a dark tone into the frame. Our natural instinct lets us focus on the brightest part of anything first. Tonal contrast helps photographers to compose photos in a way that subjects are in the highlight.

The photo with multiple colours might seem flat in case there is not enough contrast. That is exactly where tonal contrast can be your best help. This contrast plays the most vital role in the case of black and white photography. It is not an easy task to highlight something in a black-and-white photo without the proper implementation of tonal contrast.

Suppose you have to shoot a photo of some model with a dark background. You may opt for a light dress of the model in order to bring tonal contrast to the image. There are countless ways to bring such contrast in photography with different subjects and backgrounds.

 Final words

Bringing contrast in photography is not so difficult once you learn the right way to use it. Too much contrast abrupts the overall quality of the image. A good photo is balanced in such a way that every element inside the frame is clearly visible.

The right use of contrast lies in enabling viewers to differentiate different elements that are present in the photo.

About the Author

Emma Taylor is an Australian blogger and photographer, who lives in Melbourne with her two cats, where she frequents live theatre and wine bars.