Color and Contrast

When creating a photograph it is important to consider how you are going to use color and contrast to focus attention on the subject. 
I'm combining color and contrast together here because they both work to create a focus point. It doesn't really matter if you are woking with black and white, monotone, or full color.

Lets look at some examples.


This image is in black and white. It is the contrast in brightness which draws the eye. The eye will normally be drawn to the brightest or darkest area in a picture, whichever is smaller.

This image is also relatively monotone. Notice how the eye is first drawn to the smaller bright spot and then to the darker areas. The last area to be given attention is the larger area of blue sky.

Another relatively monotone image. What gets you attention first? The bright white trim. What gets you attention next? The hard dark lines in the siding. Without that contrast the image would be terrible.

With this image it is the darkest areas that get your attention first.

With this image the brightest area focuses your attention to the dancer's face.

Again, it is the contrast and not the color that really focuses the attention and makes the image.

This image has complimentary colors with nothing of particularly high contrast. As a result the image suffers somewhat. What is the subject? Is it the ivy, the window, the stone wall? Is it about "everything?" Strong pictures can't usually be about "everything."

But strong images can be about "nothing." An image that is not about "what" is captured is about "nothing" and is therefore really only about the feeling it creates in the viewer.
Bright contrasting colors can work to create tension in an mage. It creates a feeling of liveliness or fun. This image is about the feeling it creates more than the doorway it captures. And even in this image your attention is drawn to the brightest yellow areas first. 

A lack of brightness or contrast can also be used to create a feeling of calm. Again, this image is more about the feeling it creates rather than anything specific captured.

When taking a picture about "nothing" it has to create a feeling in the viewer. It has to be "different" than what one normally sees or normally feels.
That's why sunset pictures usually fail. They tend to be just about the colors and "nothing" in particular. Everyone sees sunsets so the image doesn't cause a particularly different feeling. Don't get me wrong. I'll take a nice sunset picture. But I'm taking it just for me, not because I think it will make for a particularly successful photograph.


Take a color picture using contrast  or brightness to focus the attention. Then convert the image to black and white. Does the image still work to focus your attention? It should.

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