A major element of photography (one of the principles of design in fact) is contrast. It's one of the first things editing software like to ask you to change, it's what can make wonderfully composed photos end up being worthless and vise versa. But, it can be controlled. Here are two photos I made in the last month. the first is Trespassing and it was made at the reservoir up on reservoir hill in Byron (London) The photo was a very cool concept but incredibly tricky to balance the lighting of both the foreground and the background. In editing I went farther than I had originally planned but it looked pretty darn cool so I kept it. I ended up lightening the shadows and darkening the lowlights, which gives it that strange, unreal lighting. the second photo, Stella By Starlight, was made about a month ago at Pearce Williams Church Centre at about 12:30am. I was playing with a tactic I hadn't used very much at all; 'Bulb' shutter speed. So I set my camera up on the tripod, in the pitch black of this field (the lights in the background were actually incredibly far away and quite dim) and exposed the photo (manually) for 105 seconds. I took a few others too but they just took so long to expose that the shoot lasted much longer than expected and I got into a little bit of trouble for breaking curfew. The biggest difference between these two photos, and the reason I included them, is contrast. The first photo has very little contrast; no black and no white, just kinda dark grey and kinda light grey. The second photo is the complete opposite. There is both true black and true white and a large range of shades in between. But does that make it a better photograph?
Usually, I would say yes. But every rule has exceptions and I think these two are about on par with one another. Conceptually the first one is superior, but lighting-wise the second is. It's a hard call when to and not to break a rule, but if you think that you have a time that breaking the rule is worth it, go for it. It can't hurt.
Archipelago Photography- islands of thought and image, connected with a name.