How Contrast Can Make Things Punchy

I love reading and watching stuff that photographers like Scott Kelby, Joe McNally and David Hobby produce, because not only are they great photographers they are also very gifted teachers who don’t mind illuminating the rest of us with what they have learned over the years. One of the terms that has popped up in all of their stuff is punchy contrast. In photography this is the element of lighting that makes your subjects stand out, and gives your photo depth as well as texture. It is a wonderful thing. It is also a subtle thing that can so easily be overcooked when you are a beginner. I can remember my first forays into the world of Photoshop and how horrifically unnatural the colors were as I slide the saturation and contrast sliders beyond reason.

Like learning anything though, once you get the hang of it it becomes fun, and the results so much more pleasing. This really struck me as I sat down with my son to work on some of his photos. He has a dream of becoming a marine biologist, so scuba and underwater photography are topping his interest list right now. With his new waterproof Fuji in hand he joins in on my photographic escapades. It’s kind of cool to be cool in his eyes right now, and I surely don’t want to disappoint him as he tries to do what dad does. Sometimes the little things I teach him will light up his eyes, because he is beginning to see behind some of the curtains, he is seeing a little bit of the magic. One of these times was just the other night when he got to see what happens when you tweak the ‘levels’ of a photograph during editing. As he saw the color casts and low contrast fog lift ever so subtly his whole face echoed what just happened on the screen. So sweet. No wonder these pros get such a kick out of teaching their stuff, seeing those lights come on when someone gets it is pure magic.

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