What Is Contrast In Photography? Guide for Beginners

Updated on September 15, 2022 in Photography by

What Is Contrast In Photography? Guide for Beginners

What is a contrast in photography?

The contrast in photography means having differences within a frame. It means creating separation within the image using various techniques like color, tone, texture, etc. It is done to make the foreground and background stand out.

Contrast is among the few elements of photography that helps create eye-catching scenes and draw a clear differentiation among the aspects of the image.

As a human, we tend to draw attention to the contrast naturally. That is why we see it everywhere in our daily life. Just the degree of difference can vary from low to high, but it is something that helps us do things and interact with them better.

Types of Contrast in photography

There are four types of contrast in photography:

  • Tonal contrast
  • Color Contrast
  • High Contrast
  • Low Contrast

All use different methods to create a difference within the frame, and professionals use all for different moods and work.

Tonal Contrast

Tonal contrast is a type of contrast in photography where difference is created using tone or brightness as the elements. Here, one section or subject has a different tone/brightness than other areas of the image.

Some of the most common use of tonal contrast is in flash photography and black & white color photography.

When you use flash during photography, it illuminates an area of the image. The rest of the image is still dark, hence creating contrast.

Similarly, in the case of black & white color photography, the white color is easy to differentiate on a black background because there is a difference (contrast) between the tones.

Using tonal contrast helps in empathizing with the message and helps us hold the viewer’s attention longer.

Color Contrast

Color contrast in photography is the difference between the color of the background and the foreground in an image.

Usually, differences or color contrast in photography are the colors that fall on the opposite side of the color wheels.

There can also be a color contrast between the warm and the cold colors.

Color contrast is commonly known to evoke emotions among the viewers depending on your chosen color. But you’ll find that this photograph shows a clear and precise difference among the images.

You’ll mostly find its use in stock photography, advertising, social media, etc.

High Contrast

High contrast is a type of contrast where the image has bright whites and dark blacks. That means the image’s highlights are high, and the shadows are also increased. This creates a contrast among the colors in the image.

It makes the image elements stand out and creates a beautiful view. You’ll find that this style is mainly used during silhouette photography.

Low Contrast

Low contrast in photography means the highlights and the shadows are set at low. These are the images where the colors of the image were close to each other.

When the highlights and the shadows are reduced in this type of image, it gives a dreamy effect with less visible details in the frame. 

This type of contrast is used to capture moody landscapes, portraits, or softer scenes.

Bonus Read

Learning about contrast in photography means understanding different elements of photography. The more you know your tools and opportunities, the more versatile and professional photographer you can become.

Above after learning about the type of contrast in photography, it’s time that you start experimenting with them. Choose a foreground, and then look at various surfaces and backgrounds that can help create contrast in your image.

Over time, you’ll start observing it everywhere and every photograph that stands out from the rest.

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