Embrace Contrast

(Adapted from my eBook, “Twelve Ways to Improve Your Photography”. Available free, here.)

When most photographers think of “contrast”, they think of differences between light and dark.  But there are many more forms of contrast than just “tonal contrast”.

There are differences in colour that create contrast, differences in saturation, sharpness, and apparent size as well.  These create differences that draw a viewer’s eye.  We will always be drawn to areas of higher contrast and will generally perceive these areas as being somehow more important.

In a sort of hierarchy of contrasts, our eye-brain visual system is drawn more to the contrast of light over dark, warm over cool, sharp over soft, and saturated over pastel.

Just try not to look at the warm glow of light from the cabin of the boat in the image below.

Evolution has also hard-wired us to instantly recognize, and be irresistibly drawn to, the human form.   Even though the sun is larger, brighter, warmer and more saturated than the figure on the cliff, where does your eye go first in this image?

These eye-brain preferences create visual weight in objects possessing them, and objects with higher visual weight will always draw a viewer’s eye more than those around it with less.  We can use this to lead the viewer’s eye to what is important, to what we want them to look at in our images.  Visual weight is also one of the few things we can influence significantly in post-production.

Conceptual contrast is a bit more obscure.  It’s the contrast between different visual elements in an image.  A classic example is a young child holding her grandfather’s hand — a contrast between young and old.  Similarly, a surfboard carried through the streets of Cassis, a town in southern France dating to the first century, is a contrast between ancient and modern.

Spring flowers photographed against weathered shutters are a contrast between re-birth and decay.

Waves crashing on a rocky shore is a contrast between wet and dry, between hard and soft, or between force and resistance.

Playing areas of differing contrast against one another will help to draw the viewer’s eye and create a visual path for them.  This can help to clarify the message you are trying to convey with your images.  Conceptual contrast may be more difficult to find, and you may not recognize it until you are back home reviewing your images.  But you must start thinking in these terms to recognize it at all.  Incorporating these ideas will help elevate your images above the ordinary and make them more engaging and impactful.

-BPSOP Instructor – Mark English

Mark Teaches:

Close-Up Photography

After the Click: Refining Your Vision in Lightroom & Camera Raw

The Art of Printing & Selling Your Art

“I just wanted to thank you for another wonderful class. I have to confess that each week when I read the new assignment, my first reaction was mild panic and a deep certainty that I would not be able to produce anything worthwhile that fit within the parameters you had set. But before I knew it, the ideas started to flow, and I quickly became obsessed (no, that isn’t too strong a word!) with exploring the possibilities. I can honestly say that the photos I produced in response to your assignments are among my favorites. Thanks for bringing out a creative side I didn’t know I had!”

Barbara Geiger
Understanding Color

“Thank you so very much for this course! It’s allowed me to take the blinders off and present my images for what I want them to be without being a slave to the “reality” of the camera. I would also add that in conjunction with your printing course, this has been the most useful course I’ve ever taken. Your notes are more than comprehensive and your comments and critiques are direct, clear, and always directed to the improvement of the art.”

After the click

” I want to thank you for this class and for your patience and availability to answer all of my questions. I have learned very much through this class. I have used LR in the past, but mostly for editing images. I now have a better grasp in the organization of my images, an even better understanding of editing images, and an understanding of the value of presets. I still have a lot to learn, but this has put me on the road to be able to improve my photography. Again, thank you! ”

Dale Yates
Lightroom Quickstart

Classes Starting Soon!

Understanding Exposure and Your DSLR

Instructor: Bryan Peterson Duration: 6 Weeks Cost: US$169 Without que…

Wireless Flash Techniques for Outdoor & Nature Photographers

Instructor: Rick Burress Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129 Learn Photoshop…

The Real Photoshop Course

Instructor: Charlie Borland Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129 Are you a …

The Ultimate Guide to Adobe Bridge CC

Instructor: Rick Burress Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129 The Anti-Catalo…

After the Click – Refining Your Vision in Lightroom & Camera Raw

Instructor: Mark English Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129 Why do some ima…

Editing in Adobe Camera Raw

Instructor: Rick Burress Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129 If you love pho…

Exploring Adobe Photoshop Lightroom & Lightroom for Mobile

Instructor: Holly Higbee-Jansen Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129 In this …

Lightroom Quick Start

Instructor: Holly Higbee-Jansen Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129 Do you w…

Mastering Apple Photos

Instructor: Jon Canfield Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129 Mastering Apple…

Luminar Essentials

Instructor: Jon Canfield Duration: 4 Weeks Cost: US$129 Luminar is an …

The Art of Printing and Selling Your Art

Instructor: Mark English Duration: 2 Weeks Cost: US$76 The print is the…

The 50 Most Useful Tips in Photoshop CC and Photoshop Elements

Instructor: Roger Morin Duration: 2 Weeks Cost: US$76 This two-week cla…

50 MORE Photoshop Tips & Tricks

Instructor: Roger Morin Duration: 2 Weeks Cost: US$76 This two-week cla…
Translate »