Contrast – Hard/Soft

16 05 2009
Model-Jinny Kwan

Model-Jinny Kwan

When speaking of contrast,  light and dark are usually automatically thought of. That is only one type of contrast as there are many. Today we are going to look at soft/hard contrast. It is fairly easy to convey in an image as a compositional element because the hard is usually a “known” hard- like the rock in this image, and the soft is pretty easy to see as well.

We recognize the rock in the picture as hard and Jinny, the model,  is flesh and blood and softer than the rock. The outfit she is wearing is soft also.  Pretty simple element to achieve as the rocks were already on location (probably a few years anyway) and we just threw Jinny into the setting. Instant compositional element.

So why use it? If it is so simple why does it work? What does it do for us? Also simple- it helps make the subject (Jinny) stand out. The is no confusion on what is the subject. It helps separate the subject from the background. In this case, the intention of the image is to sell, or show the dress,  in a fashionable way. If the background was made of the same material as the dress, (or maybe the dress had a pattern that was like the background) it might be possible to lose her in the background, making the image hard to view, and would probably be somewhat uninteresting.   If the client wanted to use the approach of  similarity between the subject and the background- then there must be some type of contrast element to separate the two. Maybe light and dark, maybe a color contrast, tall and short, or any number of ways. We will look at different types of contrasts, but keep in mind the contrast concept.

In this image of Jinny, hard/soft is not the only contrast present. There is a color contrast that works hand in hand with the hard/soft, and it only helps our intentions-make the subject “pop”.

Contrast is a great tool to keep in the photographer’s toolbox. It can be used to separate, showcase, and make a subject stand out.

With proper planning and forethought, your session can look like a million bucks too! Go to for more info on photo sessions.




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