A Guide to High-Contrast Photography (+ six Tips)

A Guide to High-Contrast Photography (+ 6 Tips)

high-contrast photography: your comprehensive guide

High-contrast photography is definitely tough to pull off – but in this article, I’m going to provide you with plenty of tried-and-tested strategies that will guarantee amazing results.

While some of my high-contrast photography tips clarify how to embrace the power of contrasty lighting, others motivate you to lessen contrast with beautifully detailed images.

So whether project is to create dramatic, high-contrast images or perhaps whether you would like to capture great dynamic range scenes with ease, I’ve just the hitch for you.

Let’s use this!

What is high-contrast photography?

From a technical perspective, high-contrast photography refers to photos with significant variation relating to light and dark colors. Here’s a simple example, wherein bright colors appear on the horse’s forehead while the foundation remains relatively dark and also shadowy:

high-contrast horse

However , high-contrast photography is as well used to refer to photographs in high-contrast moments . For instance, if you take an image of a sunset – along with a bright sky and a black colored foreground – you have took away a high-contrast photo, regardless of whether the final image benefits heavy contrast.

In other words, you might use various techniques to reduce contrast from the final shot, yet because of the original scene contained high-contrast elements, it would still be defined as a “high-contrast” photo. Sound right?

What causes high-contrast scenes?

High-contrast scenes are caused by hard light and much shadows .

Note that both of these aspects must generally be present you need to do high-contrast photography. Hard light-weight on its own will simply create a positive subject, while heavy shadows will only bring darkness.

Together, however , the light and additionally the dark areas will produce a high-contrast result.

You’ll normally get high-contrast scenes around midday when the sun is high in the sky; the sun is without a doubt bright, and it produces dark areas that are hard edged and also heavy.

Also you can get high-contrast scenes inside early morning or early event. The low sun produces huge shadows while lighting pieces of subjects, resulting in contrasty photo opportunities.

On the other hand, cloudy days generate consistently low-contrast photography (thanks to the soft, diffused light-weight and weak shadows).

Therefore , if your goal is to provide intense, dramatic, high-contrast photos, you’ll need to shoot with midday or during the golden hours .

If your goal is to reduce compare, a good first step is to go out on cloudy days or even during the yellow hour .

How to approach high-contrast wedding ceremony: 6 tips

In this section, I put in plain words how you can approach high-contrast digital photography training, including methods to incorporate more detail into high-contrast scenes, together with techniques to enhance high-contrast work.

1 . Work with post-production to decrease contrast

underexposed and well exposed version of a sea scene

If you’ve developed an image in high-contrast lighting effects but you’d prefer to express lots of detail, then you possess a simple fix:

You can open the record in a program such as Lightroom, then lessen the comparison.

For instance, you could try pushing the Contrast slider in the negative way. Alternatively, you can drop the particular Highlights slider (to slow up the bright tones in your photo) and boost the Shadows slider (to bring back detail at nighttime tones).

At the same time post-production does offer lots of options for adjusting contrast, it’s not perfect. There are limits into the amount of detail you can rebuild themselves, so you may wish to take a many approach, such as:

2 . Convert to black and white

high-contrast black and white horse

While high-contrast color photos don’t continuously look good, you can often repair a contrasty shot along with one minor adjustment:

A black-and-white conversion .

You see, in white and black, high-contrast areas become punchy and interesting. (It’s one of the reasons so many street photographers blast in black and white! )

Now, you can do monochrome conversions in camera, or you can make the adjustment while in post-production. Either can work, nevertheless it does often help to find out you’re going to shoot white and black in improve , as you can adjust your personal compositions accordingly.

Regardless of the approach you bring, do be sure to make additional adjustments to your files in an editing program. Consider boosting the Contrast slider for a bit of extra pop (and you can also boost the Whites slider while reducing the Blacks slider to expand your image’s tonal range).

3. Use fill splash

If you’re presented by a high-contrast scene together with you’re looking to do detailed portrait or product taking pictures, fill flash course can be an absolute lifesaver.

The idea here is to use your on-camera magnificent or a nearby off-camera whizz to fill in any shadows produced by the light. You would not want to get rid of the dark areas completely, but you do desire to reduce their intensity.

The toughest section of fill-flash photography is determining how to set your exposure . If you need to keep your subject looking pure while including a well-defined record, then I recommend you set your camera’s exposure so that the past is properly exposed, then simply use the flash to boost the particular foreground.

Of course , it may take some testing to get the exposure exactly appropriate, and there’s nothing wrong with playing around to achieve distinct effects.

Remember that you can create a similar – if slightly less impressive – effect using a reflector , so if you’d prefer not to handle all the technical ins and outs connected with flash photography, consider hitting a nice 5-in-1 reflector on the other hand.

4. Use a graduated neutral density clean

San Francisco seascape

Scenes with too-dark foregrounds as well as a bright backgrounds are very common in landscape photographs because skies tend to be much brighter than foregrounds, specifically at sunrise and sunset. But when shooting landscapes, the aim is generally to produce detailed photos with limited contrast ( not shots full of heavy dark areas and blown-out highlights, even to characteristic of high-contrast photography).

So what expended . do?

Solitary option is to grab a graduated normal density filter , which often goes over your lens together with blocks light from the top of the frame while putting the bottom of the frame unblemished. In other words, a graduated fairly neutral density filter darkens skies so they can be better handled from your camera.

Decent graduated neutral density filter systems do tend to be pricey, nevertheless , and they can be limited into their flexibility, which is why I recommend another option:

5. Stir your exposures

Whenever you’re faced with a new high-contrast scene that’s unmoving – such as a high-contrast cityscape, landscape, or even still lifespan – you can reduce the comparison using risk blending .

The idea here is that you gain several images of your issue matter while adjusting your irritation. One image should orient for the dark portions of the scene, one image should certainly expose for the light part of your scene, and a final image should expose with the midtones of your scene.

(Note that you can capture more – or maybe fewer – than about three images. But three shots is a good starting point, and except when you’re dealing with an ultra-contrasty scene, extra photos would not be necessary. )

You can then blend all these pictures in Lightroom or Photoshop. The process is simple and additionally automated: you upload your personal files, you tell this system they should be blended together, and you simply wait while the images will be combined into a beautiful closing exposure.

This is how I captured this surroundings:

Grand Canyon multiple exposures

First of all, I took three photographs – one that exposed for any shadows, one that exposed to the sky, and one that shown for the midtones.

Then I used software for you to blend the three images jointly!

6. Take hold of , the high-contrast effect

Tree backlit at sunset

I’ve used up a lot of time explaining how you can lower contrast when photographing high-contrast scenes.

But sometimes the best plan is to steer into the skid. Embrace the contrast, numerous experts capture some truly unique graphics.

In particular, you might deliberately shoot in the sun so you get a sunny background and a shadowy front-end. (It’s a great way to produce outlines! )

Or perhaps you might find areas of the city with interesting shadows and make use of these to create graphic combinaison. Look for interesting geometry, and also consider combining the shadows with a human subject (e. g., wait until a person walks through the shadows and then fish for a couple of shots).

As I emphasized above, high-contrast photos do look great throughout black and white, so it’s obviously an option to consider. But you can also create interesting high-contrast injections that include color, especially if you’re able to incorporate vibrant hues into your composition.

Hence experiment, have fun, and see whatever you get!

High-contrast photography: final words

Hopefully, you now look and feel ready to tackle some high-contrast scenes.

Just remember: There is no single right way to approach high-contrast taking photographs. You can reduce the contrast making fill flash, filters, or even post-production – but you can at the same time embrace the contrast suitable for beautiful results.

Now over to you:

Which ones high-contrast photo strategies are you planning to use? Share your thoughts from the comments below!

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