I’m confused because there are dark silhouettes at the bottom of the image. I’ve been taught that if there are dark shadows and silhouettes, it will almost always be a high contrast image. Can someone correct me if I’m wrong?

Looking at the left hand side of the image (with the bright yellow sun), I believe there is indeed high contrast between the bright yellow sun and the black silhouette at the bottom. However, the right and middle of the photo is red-orange-ish and a bit darker than the yellow at the left side. So my question is: Is the middle and right side also high contrast with the silhouettes at the bottom? If no, does that mean the image is both high AND low contrast, depending on which parts you’re comparing?

Basically, if you were to given the question, “how would you describe the contrast of this image?” How would you answer that question? enter image description here

  • 2
    "Basically, if you were to given the question, “how would you describe the contrast of this image?” How would you answer that question?" I'd say, "What difference does it make what label you attach to it?"
    – Michael C
    Nov 24, 2019 at 14:59
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    Although I'm also unclear on why the label is important, I love this question because it's about looking and analyzing the properties of an actual photograph — I wish we had questions like this every day!
    – mattdm
    Nov 24, 2019 at 18:22

3 Answers 3


The word contrast as it relates to a picture is defined as the degree of difference in tonality.

To call it high or low requires context... generally that would be within the capabilities of recording/reproducing the scene. Using rough measurements/rounded in the LAB color space... The right side has values that range from 0:35-60, the middle has values that range from 0:60-80, and the left side has values that range from 0:80-98. I was unable to find any points that reached the maximum contrast level of 0:100.

So I would call this primarily a low contrast image. You could call it a high contrast image because it does contain a small area of high contrast and you wouldn't be wrong. But simply having a discernible silhouette is not enough.

  • Thank you. That’s what I thought; it’s BOTH depending on which part you look at. What I was confused about was whether an image could be both high and low contrast, it just depends on what parts you’re comparing in the photo
    – Tommy D
    Nov 24, 2019 at 22:15
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    The question is does the technical consideration of containing high contrast make it "a high contrast image" in terms of what it conveys in mood/feeling? It might be better to define it as a low key image (very little if any tones above mid) that happens to have a small area of high contrast. Nov 24, 2019 at 23:35

Would this image be considered a low or high contrast image?

In my opinion it would be neither a high contrast nor a low contrast image, but one that is somewhere in between the two extremes. Of course how one defines "high contrast" or "low contrast" or "moderate contrast" can be fairly subjective.

A high contrast image tends to have a histogram with peaks on both ends and not much in between.

enter image description here

A low contrast image tends to have a histogram with a single peak anywhere in the image and not much anywhere else.

enter image description here

Images with more even distribution along the entire histogram can be said to be neither high nor low contrast.

enter image description here

Your image has a large peak on the left end denoting the almost pure black shadow that covers roughly half the frame. But there's no corresponding peak on the other end that shows the other half of the frame to be at or near full saturation. So it's not a high contrast image. On the other hand, there are a wide range of brightnesses in the image, even if most of them are very limited in terms of how much of the image is that particular brightness, so it's not really a low contrast image, either.


For me also middle and right part of the image are also high contrast.

Here is the histogram of the middle part: enter image description here

Here is the histogram of the right part: enter image description here

Of course the contrast is not so high as in the left part, but it is strong.

And the right side of the image is darker obviously. ALso you have there a mixture of colours when on the left side is mostly red.

enter image description here

  • So the right & middle part are also high contrast even though the sky is pretty dark just like the silhouette? I guess what I’m trying to understand is, at what point is a part of the photo too dark to be considered “bright” and at what point is a part too light to be considered “dark”? Because to me, the sky is pretty dark even though it’s red orange & even darker at the top right. I know there’s contrast between the silhouette & the sky in the middle/right, but what determines if it’s high/low contrast, since it looks like the sky is pretty dark, just like the silhouette? Is it subjective?
    – Tommy D
    Nov 24, 2019 at 15:55
  • @TommyD, for me it's subjective. But the right part (sky) is much darker. Nov 24, 2019 at 17:02

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