Contrast vs. Brightness – What's the Difference?

When dealing with images or videos, we need to understand and consider the differences between contrast and brightness. Any computer monitor or television will have controls that allow us to adjust these settings to our preference, so it helps to know a little but about what contrast and brightness actually mean to the overall presentation of the image or video we’re trying to view.

Brightness is easy. Brightness is simply how much light something emits. It can wash out Chris Pirillo as if he were one of those freakishly pallid, melanin-deprived morlocks who never goes outside to play…

Oh, right.

Contrast vs. Brightness - What's the Difference?Contrast is, as Brandon Wirtz puts it, “the ratio of the brightest spot to the darkest spot. It’s the space in between — contrast is how dark to how light something is.”

Brandon goes on to elaborate on the troubles one might face when trying to adjust contrast: “Having too much contrast is a bad thing because the blacks get crushed and the whites get crushed and so it all gets blended together and you get to the spot where there is no middle ground. Here’s black, and here’s white, and there’s no shading in between.

“In a very dark room, you can have more contrast, because you don’t hit the limits of what the television (or display) can do in terms of how bright it needs to go. When you’re in broad daylight, you have to have more brightness so that you can actually see things.”

Whether you’re still confused about the difference between contrast and brightness or not confused at all, you’ll see visible examples of contrast and brightness in this intriguing dialogue between LockerGnome’s Chris Pirillo and Brandon Wirtz as special effects wizard Matt Ryan controls all that you see and hear. (Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!)

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Our resident "Bob" (pictured here through the lens of photographer Jason DeFillippo) is in love with a woman who talks to animals. He has a fondness for belting out songs about seafaring and whiskey (arguably inappropriate in most social situations). He's arm-wrestled robots and won. He was born in a lighthouse on the storm-tossed shores of an island that has since been washed away and forgotten, so he's technically a citizen of nowhere. He's never killed in anger. He once underwent therapy for having an alien in his face, but he assures us that he's now feeling "much better." Fogarty also claims that he was once marooned along a tiny archipelago and survived for months using only his wits and a machete, but we find that a little hard to believe.

  • http://twitter.com/D3Xpowered D3X Designs

    Basically…
    too high/too low contrast = eliminates middle colors
    too high/too low brightness = wash out colors

  • Anonymous

    Contrast = The ratio between Black to White, The Black to White ratio scale
    Brightness = Luminance, the average of lightness to darkness of the overall luminance

    Note; a video screen can only be as black as the screen is with no video “off”. For example take an older CRT that was grayish in hue when off, that is the darkest black ratio you can have when the screen is lit, anything you see is black is “fooling” your eyes into thinking your seeing black, based on the black to white ratio.