kids photo tips contrastHave you learned about contrast yet, and have started applying it to your kid’s photography? If not, it’s time to get started – it can make for amazing images, particularly when combined with other kid’s portrait photography tips and composition rules.

Contrast is another weapon to add to your photography arsenal that helps you to make create memorable photos. Contrast is primarily used to make your subject or focal point stand out – it stands for the difference in tones in an image, but can be applied to other types of contrast as well.

Imagine a field with nothing but white daisies…pretty but boring, right? Now place a red tulip somewhere in the scene, where does your eye go? Exactly – to the part of the image that contrasts (or stands out from) the rest. Applying this principle to kid’s portrait photography is just as easy, you simply need to figure out how best to take advantage of the scene and your child’s wardrobe or available props.

tips for using contrast in children's portrait photography

Here’s a perfect example of contrast using colors and patterns to help the kid’s stand out from the background.

Types of Contrast in Kid’s Portrait Photography

There are many types of contrast that you can use to draw the viewer’s eye towards your subject or focal point (i.e. your child):

COLOR CONTRAST: Use an item of contrasting color to draw the eye. The more contrasted the colors are, the more the focal point will stand out. For example, a yellow raincoat against green grass, or an orange umbrella against cold grey concrete. In the image above, the red shirt is opposite the color wheel to green, so it sharply contrasts and makes the subject stand out more than a different color (like blue, for example).

TONAL CONTRAST: This refers to light vs. dark. In black and white photography the most obvious example would be shooting against a background that opposes the skin color of your subject. It could also mean wearing something dark (or holding something dark) against a light background. In color photography, it could mean pink vs. red, or bold colors vs. pastels.

FOCAL CONTRAST: By ensuring your subject is in focus while blurring the surroundings you create a type of focal contrast that draws attention to the subject, since the rest of the photo is out of focus. This is used quite commonly in portrait photography, and can come in handy if you are unable to use other types of contrast to help the subject stand out.

PATTERNS: Contrasting patterns can be used to make part of your image stand out – such as placing your child in a solid, single color outfit against a brick wall, or against a plain background when they are wearing a pattern.

pattern contrast in children's portrait photography

Here’s a good example of tonal and pattern(al) contrast – the plain white smock contrasts with the pattern on the chair,
while the white/black tonal contrast also draws the eye towards the subject. Yes, it’s that easy!

Applying Contrast in Kid’s Portrait Photography

Contrast works best when you keep it simple. The more colors and tones that are introduced to the image, the less your subject or focal point will stand out. You may want to play around with different levels and types of contrast to find what works best for your images.

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