A Guide to What Is Contrast In Photography and Its Types

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Photography is the art of filling a blank space with vibrant, vivid images that capture the essence of life. It is about telling a story that mere words cannot. A single photo can make you feel a thousand emotions all at once. Some may be joyful, while others may evoke sadness. However, have you ever wondered why the photographer uses the particular elements seen in the photo?

As a photographer, it is crucial to understand the relationship between the various components of photography. One of the key topics is contrast, which is an amalgamation of light and color.

Other aspects include composition, distance, and movement.

What Does Contrast Mean?

What is Contrast in Photography? Well, contrast, in photography, describes the luminosity and chromaticity of an image. In a nutshell, it helps us to understand how light and color influence a photo. As photographers, it is essential to play with these elements while also maintaining harmony amongst them.

Further, composition and contrast go hand-in-hand and thus, have to be considered together.
Composition, in photography, is the marriage between the various objects in a frame. In simpler terms, it is the arrangement of the elements in a photo, to make sure each of them stands out and yet create a cohesive image. Properties such as texture, lines, patterns, and colors, all work in accordance with each other to create a beautiful click.

Types of Contrast in Photography

As we know what is contrast in photography, it is vital to understand what are the types of contrast, in order to add depth to your photos. In the vast field of photography, there are numerous categories of contrast. Each of them have distinct features that separate them from one another.

1. Color Contrast

As the name suggests, color contrast deals with the chromaticity of an image. Do you know about the renowned color wheel? Well, that plays a major in the color perspective of a photo.

Colors are often classified as primary colors i.e red, blue, yellow, and secondary colors i.e green, orange, and purple. All the hues of the colors we see today fall between the combination of the primary and secondary colors. Further, they are categorized into warm and cool colors, too.

Thus, color contrast is the equilibrium between warm and cool colors, to create a picturesque image. A great way to do this is to make use of complementary colors. A fine example of this is the juxtaposition of red and green.

Let’s look at a photo of a rose. What do you notice? In this photo, you can see how the red petals compliment the bright green leaves. If you look deeper, you can notice the ombre of the red petals in harmony with the green areas of the rose. This is exactly what beautifies the rose! Thus, playing with colors can result in some fantastic photos!

Finding the Perfect Mix of Colors

a. As a photographer, it is important to incorporate a maximum of two to three colors, in order to retain the impact of the photo.

b. Use the background of the image as a guide and inspiration for your mixture of colors. Landscapes serve as the best example of color contrasting.

c. The key focus is on the subject. The main motive of color contrasting is to divert your viewer to the structure of the subject or object. Thus, it is important to remember to match your background based on the foreground elements.

2. Tonal Contrast

Tonal Contrast deals with the luminosity of a particular photo. It basically explains the role of lighting in photography, and how it is related to the brightness or dullness of elements in an image.

Tonal contrast is the equilibrium of the light and dark areas of a photograph that we often see.

Tonal contrast can be classified into two broad categories i.e Low and High Levels. Low-key tones are mainly the dark parts of an image. The best way to understand this is through examples of black and white photographs.

Imagine a white object on a black background. In this, the low-key tonal contrast is the black background, and the high-key tone is the white subject or object.

Thus, the juxtaposition of low-key and high-key elements in a piece can create a cohesive and unique frame.

The perfect example of tonal contrast is Silhouettes.

What are Silhouettes?

Silhouette photography is one of the most common forms of photography. Have you ever seen an outline of an object against a colorful background? The perfect example is people walking on the shores of beaches as the sun is setting. Silhouette photographers often use low-light cameras to focus on the background more than the foreground.

Further, silhouettes are a classic way of conveying character, drama, and an emotional appeal to the viewers. They are unconventional and defying photos that unleash the imagination within us. Photographers often leave the interpretation of silhouettes up to the viewers.

The main objective of silhouettes is to differentiate between the light and dark aspects of a photograph. Thus, silhouette photography aims at bringing you out of your comfort zone and directing you to new destinations in the wide world of photography.

3. Conceptual Contrast

Last but not least aspect of contrast is a concept. In conceptual photography, photographers tend to focus on creating stories that are abstract and innovative. They push boundaries to figure out what crazy combinations of objects exist and weave them into a cohesive single frame.

In order to truly master the art of conceptual contrast, you need to think out of the box. Something you can do is try looking for items that normally are not pictured together. For example a small waterfall amidst a landfill. Things that are unique and extraordinary compose the ingredients for a perfect snap of conceptual photography.

Thus, conceptual contrast is the skill of finding the balance between two strange things, while still maintaining their originality.

Contrast in photography brings out the inner beauty of photos. By inculcating various parts of contrast, you can really add character to your photos, and create some stunning clicks.

Further, contrasting your images can evoke a strong sense of emotions. For example, warm colors, such as reds and oranges, can relate to anger, whereas cool colors, such as blues, represent calmness.

Photographers often play with the minds of people and show them what a mere camera lens can do. They are able to manipulate and create magnificent moments in just a single frame. So, grab your camera and be ready to be transported into a whole new world.

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Marco Downs

Marco Downs

Marco Downs is our second founder and he is the creative head of this website. Marco stumbled upon photography only in college when he joined the photography club. His parents could never afford a camera for him as a child and it was in college that he saved up and bought his first camera. He now writes in-depth buyer guides and informational articles to assist the buyers. 
Marco Downs

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