In this lesson, you will learn about the Contrast principle.

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Visual Communications

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What's Covered

Welcome to today's lesson on contrast. This lesson will cover the contrast principle, why it's important, and then see a few examples of contrasting practice. Specifically, this lesson will cover:

  1. Defining Contrast
  2. Examples of Contrast

1. Defining Contrast

Contrast is a design principle.

Term to Know

    • Contrast
    • Contrast is a design principle that occurs when two elements are seen for their difference.

It occurs when two elements are seen for their difference. Contrast will have different levels of extremity, which is referred to as high contrast or low contrast.

Take a look at the image below.

There are black and white values next to one another, which creates very high contrast. The image also has two kind of gray murky colors that create low contrast. This affects readability and visibility in a design, so it's a very, very important principle to master and make note of.

2. Examples of Contrast

Take a look at a few examples in photography. Below is a foggy picture of a couple of trees here in Switzerland.

Notice that in the background foggy areas; there is very low contrast. Everything is somewhat mocked up. You can tell that there are trees and snow back there, but the level of contrast isn't very high. The tree is not a point of interest.

This is important to know, because contrast is most effective when there's a clear distinction between elements of the design. So contrast is going to be used to create a focal point, which in this case are the two pine in the foreground. The high contrasting layer of snow in the foreground also leads your eye to those pines, and it creates the highest level of contrast in that region of this image.

Now take a look at an image with less contrast below.

The roses above are pretty low contrast, but there is still clear definition between the roses and the rose petals themselves, due to the shadows that provide a bit of contrast.

What if there were even less contrast between the details?

You quickly start to notice that the image loses its clarity, its appeal, and its punch. The elements are more difficult to distinguish from one another.

Finally, take a look at the image of a snowboarder with some color below.

Here, the background, sky, and trees on the back are areas of low contrast. As a result, they’re not very interesting. It's not the point of interest here in the picture.

The higher points of contrast create a focal point, which in this case, would be the snowboarder. Good use of contrast not only makes the image more interesting, but it also allows the viewer to clearly understand the idea or message that's trying to be conveyed here. So again, the focal point here would be the very, very bright and high-contrasting values of the snowboarder in relation to the background.


That concludes this lesson on what contrast is and some examples of contrast in photography.  Contrast is most effective when there is a clear distinction between elements.

Keep up the learning and have a great day!


  • Contrast

    Contrast is a design principle that occurs when two elements are seen for their difference.