Use Contrast For Impact

Take contrast beyond its traditional definition and intensify your images
Click Images To Enlarge This Article Features Photo Zoom

The word "contrast" refers to the range of tones from the brightest highlight to the darkest shadow. With black-and-white, it relates to the range of gray shades from pure white to rich black. The more extreme the range, the higher the contrast. Conversely, if all the tones are close, the contrast is low. As with any photographic concept, it can be used creatively. I offer you the following ways to use the word "contrast" beyond its traditional definition. I also challenge you to take the ideas further on your own.

NATURAL CONTRAST: Living in Colorado, I experience weather extremes. It's not uncommon to walk around in a T-shirt in the morning and have to snuggle into a fleece jacket by late afternoon. This is especially true in the spring. Snow has often been recorded in early May and blankets the town in white. Being one who never turns down a photographic opportunity, I grab my camera and walk around the neighborhood. On one such year, I turned to my left as I heard a group of tulips call my name. Being careful to not disturb their snow hats, I captured the concept of contrast that occurs in nature.

RELATIONSHIPS: When I think of the word contrast, I associate it with the word "opposites." Divergent subjects make great photographic subjects. I was photographing a hot-air-balloon ascension in Snowmass, Colo.. Having a number of traditional hot-air balloon photos, I wanted to capture something with a different twist. Seeing the already launched balloons become smaller as they rose, I decided to juxtapose one with its sister balloon that was just being inflated to create big to little contrast.

SILHOUETTES:  Silhouettes make wonderful contrast images, as they rely upon a bright background in conjunction with a foreground in shadow that becomes an outline. Dawn and dusk provide numerous opportunities to capture them in that the sky is bright but not enough to cast ambient light on dark outlined objects.

The gauntlet has been laid, and the challenge is for you to think of more ways to depict contrast in non-traditional ways. Once you feel you've exhausted your creativity making photos that illustrate Contrast, choose another word, grab your camera and hit the trails to capture its significance..



    Russ, as a fellow Coloradan I can attest that we have extreme weather contrasts hour to hour. Once I was driving the 100 miles from Colorado Springs to Buena Vista and I think I passed through all four seasons! As to plain old standard contrasts what can beat our steel blue skies against a snowy peak or a golden strand of aspen?

    James – I absolutely agree with your examples – gotta love the CO weather, and people! Give the drive to Mt Evans a whirl as it takes you through 4 life zones in less than 45 minutes.

    Russ, as is the drive up Pikes Peak, which I understand (to the chagrin of some Pikes Peak Hill Climb fans) is now fully paved to the top! I’ll have to do the Mt. Evans drive. Although I have lived here for over 35 years I am yet to do that one.

Leave a Reply

Main Menu