Contrast in color films

Unlike black-and-white film, where contrast is initially determined by exposure but can be later modified to a considerable degree during processing and printing, color contrast is almost solely a product of the inherent contrast designed into the film by the manufacturer.

 

Other things affecting contrast in color photography include

  • Scene contrast

  • Exposure

  • Color qualities of each film.

Bear in mind that overall contrast in color materials cannot either be controlled or modified with the ease of such changes in black-and-white films and papers.


Often, color contrast and color saturation are confused with one another. Color saturation, or chroma, is a quality of color film that identifies a color as a pure hue, undiluted by black, gray, or white. Compare this to color contrast, which is defined as the relative visual weight of two or more colors in close proximity to one another on the color wheel. It is of further interest to note that because the three color dyes contained in most color films are combined in different ratios and amounts, certain colors produced by particular color films will appear more color-saturated than others. Thus, a film's saturation qualities can have a bearing on its overall color contrast.
 

As a general rule, films that are judged to be more contrasty than average are also seen as having higher levels of color saturation. This is particularly so with films exhibiting high color saturation in the warm (red, orange, yellow) end of the spectrum, an area of high visual weight.
 

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