PH2 J. Finnigan
Tonal Contrast
In black-and-white photography, contrast is
considered either high, normal, or low. A high-contrast
scene or photograph consists primarily of white and
black with few or no middle gray tones. A black sailor
in a white uniform against a light background is an
example of a high-contrast (contrasty) scene. Most
scenes you photograph have normal contrast. There will
probably be elements within the scene that are very light
or white, some that are very dark or black, and many
tones or colors that reproduce as various tones of gray.
A low-contrast (flat) scene has colors or tones in which
highlights and shadows have very little difference in
densities. In other words, all colors or tones within the
scene are very similar in appearance. A white sailor in a
white uniform against a light background is an example
of a scene with low contrast.
In black-and-white photography, high contrast
conveys a sense of hardness and is characteristic of
strength and power. Low contrast conveys a sense of
softness and is characteristic of gentleness and mildness.
Color Contrast
Color contrast is an effective compositional element
in color photography, just as tone is in black-and-white
photography. Colors with opposite characteristics
contrast strongly when placed together. Each color
accentuates the qualities of the other and makes the color
images stand out dramatically. Color contrast is
enhanced when you create the contrast of detail against
mass. An example is a single, bright, red flower in a
clear, glass vase photographed against a bright, green
Cold colors (bluish) and warm colors (reddish)
almost always contrast. Cold colors recede, while warm
colors advance. Light colors contrast against dark ones,
and a bold color offsets a weak color.

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