To me, drama in images creates a story. The image is no longer of nature, or a child playing- it urges your mind to want to understand why this image happened. I have always been more attracted to art that was high contrast. I look at them longer than a flat image. In my paintings I used contrast/drama to control how someones eye wandered through the painting.
In these before and after images I hope to illustrate how I took my straight out of camera image and altered it to create a path for your eye. I love images of my daughter. What mother wouldn't? My goal was to guide a viewers eye over my daughter, not into the space around her. I used a feathered filter to cover the eyes walking path in the form of a light source. Now, obviously, by viewing the before image there wasn't a strong light source. It was overcast giving the image a soft light. If I had shot this image at noon the sun would have created too much contrast to allow a creative edit.
In addition to creating a dramatic light source I also used graduated filters on either side of my created light to create darkness. By doing this I am making a strong bookend. This keeps a viewers eye from flowing from my light source to my daughter. The eye is haunted before it continues past her.
When using drama and contrast to walk someones eye through an image, its also important to keep in mind that your image shouldn't be to strongly weighted to one side. In this image the highlights on my son's face are balanced by the white of the pie plate. The walking path I created for the viewer starts on his face and flows down his arm; then the pie plate circles the eye back.
In this image high contrast highlights are used to create the drama. Once again, it was cloudy outside. I opened the kitchen window and turned off the lights in the kitchen. I shot this at f/2 1/1000 ISO800
I don't always use high contrast to create drama in an image because I don't always feel like its appropriate. My contrast in this image was through bright colors in the quilt and flat gray of the wrap. I limited highlighting to the baby's face and left the surround darker. In these images the colorful quilt assists a viewers eye focused on the baby in the center. Because the quilt is bright and patterned, it bookends the baby's face.
In these images color is used to create drama and contrast also. My daughters red dress is the complimentary color to the green trees. Complimentary colors are the two colors on the opposite side of the color wheel. If you look at this wheel you can see how red is opposite the green.
To create contrast in paintings I often painted the shadows on a subject the compliment to the subjects color. This give you a pop. In the image of the berries. Not only did I create a light source but I edited the image of the yellow orange berries to have purple shadows. This gives contrast without increasing the amount of black in an image.
I think a default for most photographers wanting drama is black & white. It doesn't have to be.
In the above image I added a warm (orange/red) light to contrast the green. This is a softer example of using a light source in combination with complimentary color.
My last tip for creating dramatic photos is to remove distractions. I wanted the focus of this image to be my daughters face. The fur (faux fur in case anyone cares) bookends her BUT if you look at the SOOC image, my daughters shirt sleeves are showing. The purple plaid shirt detracts your focus from my daughters skin. It also adds a color that wasn't in my desired palette. I desaturated her sleeves. With the color removed the image is much cleaner, making it easier to control the viewers eye.
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Fort Smith, Arkansas photographer specializing in newborn, children and family portraits.
All images are copyrighted by Brittney Owens Photography