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5 Types of Contrast to Enhance Your Travel Photos

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Contrast is a powerful photographic tool that helps to draw viewer's attention to the subject. In black-and-white photography, tonal contrast refers to the different in tones of the image: from white to grey to black. In colour photography, contrasting colours are used to make the subject stand out. And in the larger sense, contrast is any striking difference that gives added emphasis to the subject. Let's have a look at some examples of how contrast can be effectively used in photography in a variety of ways.

1. Tonal contrast: dark vs. light

Also known as tonal contrast, this is probably the most known type of contrast. It refers to the different in tones from the lightest (white) through grey to the darkest (black).

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Mostly used in black-and-white photography, it may also apply to colour images with a variety of tones of the same colour, for example, blue as in the photo below.

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2. Colour contrast: warm vs. cold

In colour photography, contrasting colours are used to make a photo truly eye-catching. For instance, yellow contrasts well with blue, red with green, purple with orange, and so on. By including a subject of a strikingly different colour than the background or the surrounding subjects, we immediately draw attention to it.

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The same concept works for cold and warm hues, especially during the "blue hour": warm light from street lamps and illuminated buildings contrast well with the cool blue sky right after sunset.

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3. Colour intensity: bright vs. subdued

The intensity of colour is usually quite easy to notice and therefore is always a good idea to use in photographs. For example, a bright umbrella or raincoat of a passer-by will definitely stand out on a rainy day, and vice versa - a person dressed in black attracts attention when placed against a vividly coloured wall.

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4. Size matters: big vs. small

One may think of contrast not only in terms of colour or tone, but also in terms of size or shape: big to small, textured to smooth, patterned to plain - anything that makes a difference, thus placing more emphasis to the said difference and making the photo more interesting to explore. Hint: when comparing sizes, a wide-angle lens will be of great help: notice how small the people are compared to the wide blue sky or to the vast square!

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5. Meaning: old vs. new

Contrast in photography is not limited solely to the visual aspect. It is always interesting to see the photos that reflect the differences in the meaning of the subjects: old vs. young, natural vs. man-made, traditional vs. modern, fragile vs. strong, and so on. After all, contrast is about anything that is strikingly different in a very obvious way, and therefore can be used in photography to get an idea across.

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Do you use various types of contrast in your photography? We are curious to see, so share your photos with us!

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About the Author

Nadia Gric

Nadia Gric

Nadia is passionate about the visual aspect of life and the personalities she meets along the way. Living in the heart of Paris, Nadia never stops exploring the City of Light through her camera and readily shares her knowledge and love for photography.