Over the last few months, we have explored how different aspect of photography affect the viewer including shape, colour, and form. However, the ‘wow’ effect that draws attention to your work is the skillful application and use of contrast. While you can observe the whole image in a millisecond, how your mind perceives the image is a subconscious process.
"I see you!" by Deb Ford
If the image has a strong element drawing attention or a particular ‘path’ your eyes follow, it just makes much more sense for your brain so even within milliseconds, a photo can become memorable for years. If there is no clear focus point and the image is overloaded with multiple objects your mind will ‘get lost’ and the photo will not linger long in your memory. That’s why it is very important to be able to find contrasting colours, objects, textures or to make them in post processing (e.g. black and white contrast) .
"Golden light" by Tony Joseph
Even though the human eye is strongly attracted to bright contrasting colors, contrast in a photograph could be about the contrasting atmosphere of two different sides of a street. By providing contrast you highlight one of the main components of a photograph and hence draw viewer’s attention to that, making them aware and making them care.
"Lindis Pass Contrast" by Debbie Sutton
Things To Consider
Too bright/too dark
You might add contrast in-post but beware not to overdo it as high contrasting images can be too bright for our eyes to look at and hence cause an unpleasant viewing experience. Making the images too dark as a result of adding contrast can also hide some important details which will make the photo less interesting.
Blurred vs sharp
You can create contrast by displaying something in sharp focus on a blurred background. Background here also plays an important role as, for example, a staged portrait with an artistic background will still be more of a portrait and unless you know the person in the photo or it has some other creative/artistic element to it, the image will vanish from the viewer’s memory very quickly. So remember, even when blurred, the background still needs to be interesting enough to draw you in.
Use your creativity
Try photographing silhouettes, playing with light and shadows or negative space this week and share your photos in our Community Chat -> Contrast topic for this week – all genres that consider contrast are welcome!
"Camel walk" by Arun Ravindran