Contrast in film photography

Contrast is one of those photographic terms used constantly, and more often than not with little (if any) notion of its meaning. Since there is more than one type of contrast in photography, the term needs to be defined more precisely. There is more than one kind of contrast and this include subject contrast, tonal contrast (as in black-and-white), color contrast, emotional contrast, luminosity contrast, and so on.


Contrast also exists in the physical structure, emotional content, and impact of an image. Some critics go so far as to argue that contrast is everything in a photograph. They assert that without significant contrast, either physical and/or emotional, there would be precious little for viewers to look at. Contrast of any sort produces tension and makes a composition dynamic.


There is little doubt that contrast in all its forms constitutes a major visual element in the appeal that an image makes for attention. Contrasts drawn boldly or subtly can make or break a picture. This is reason enough to take a detailed look at contrast as one of the principal design elements in photography. As film selection and use go a long way toward defining the quality of an image, it is incumbent upon us to understand all that goes into making an image visually appealing. Clearly, film contrast is an important element in the quality equation.

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