Week 12 - Photograph contrasts to differentiate your subject

One of my favorite episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants is the one called Opposite Day. (I only watch it with my kids. Wink, wink.)

If you haven't seen it, Squidward decides to sell his house and move, but he is worried that no one will buy it after seeing their potential neighbors. As a fix, Squidward convinces SpongeBob that it is Opposite Day, and everyone must do the opposite of their usual behavior. The antics ensue.

We don't have to be quite that wacky, but opposites can attract in photography.  This week we will focus on capturing contrasts, or opposites.

Show contrasts in concepts - new vs. old. Flickr photo by Leo Chimaera.

Show contrasts in color and texture. Flickr photo by Rebecca Bexxi.

Almost 100 years before Squidward invented Opposite Day, the theory emerged as an approach to composition. Johannes Itten, who ran a school of art, design, and architecture in Germany, would often challenge his students to look for different possibilities in opposites. He knew that contrast can help make your subject stand out and even lead the eye directly to it.

Photographers can show contrasts in several ways:

  • Use two different images that each show an opposing idea.
  • Juxtapose two different items in the same photo.
  • Illustrate two different concepts, such as loud/quiet or much/little.
  • Show extreme contrasts in light.

 Show contrast with color and concept. Flickr photo by .m for matthijs.

The Challenge

One way to think about contrasts might be to adopt your own opposite day. Find the contrasting ideas and images around you and photograph them. 


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Once you have a great photo, post it in the comments here or tag it #composition21 when you post it on Twitter or Flickr. Note: Just post the link to your photo, and the system will generate your preview icon.


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