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Clever Techniques to Highlight Your Materials Through Contrast

From manmade to natural, textured to smooth, explore the dynamics of photographing contrasts in materials.

A clever technique of many photo professionals is to place a featured object (the hero product), against an object that fundamentally contrasts it. There are many ways to think about this. Hard can be a great contrast to soft, manmade to natural, textured to smooth. However you choose to apply it, contrast in materials emphasizes your hero object.

If you’re working with a synthetic medium (anything plastic, resin, metal, etc.) take a look at how it comes alive when photographed against a natural element (wood, stone, flora, etc.) The context of comparison heightens its properties. And, while photographs of homogenous materials can have beauty and strength to them, contrast is worth investigating. What good is good without bad to compare it to? How delectable is dessert without savory food to render it special? How many massages feel as luxurious as the one following a grueling workout?

Contrast brings meaning to much of life, including the visual world of photography. Experiment and find your place with it.

A Visual Tour to Creating Contrast

Manmade and natural materials offer an instant, eye-grabbing contrast. Images by Wiktory, Tonktiti, and beeboys, respectively.

Image via Eko Setyawan.
Find dissimilarities between the subjects of your photos. Image via Jessica Siegman.
Image via Dado Photos.

Use color to juxtapose objects against one another. Images by Helge Lindau, Julia Kuznetsova, and Yulia.Panova, respectively.

Send a message using the immediate incongruity between nature and plastics. Image via Nungning20.
Image via Anna Shkolnaya.
Or, send a message about sustainability using reusable items and fresh, irresistible produce. Image via ArtemSh.
Image via Dasha_Romanova.
Even among similar subjects, size can play a part in creating contrast. Image via Thawatsan suwannachat.

Florals, natural fibers, or even paper can soften the starkness of metal and glass. Images via Devuaphoto, powerofbeat, and Chursina Viktoriia, respectively.

Image via KaterynaTkachenko.
Image via Mehmet Cetin.

Cover image via Nungning20.

For additional design tips and advice, check out these articles:

  • 20 Creative Shutterstock and Offset Illustrators to Follow in 2021
  • Become a Better Photographer and Capture Images that Connect
  • Abstract and Intimate: Surreal Faces Is 2021’s Most Human Design Trend
  • Slow Fashion at Home: The Rise of Millennial Sewists
  • 2021 Color Trends

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