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Juxtaposition as a photography technique is a lot less complicated than it sounds! It’s actually really simple, but the difference it makes to a photograph is dramatic.

What is juxtaposition in photography?

When using juxtaposition as a composition technique, you’re making a statement by positioning two contrasting elements in an image for emphasis and/or to tell a story.

The elements can be objects, shapes, colors, shade, etc. The list is endless and even two contrasting expressions can be used.

So, juxtaposition is another way of saying contrast.

Why use juxtaposition in composition?

We use juxtaposition to create interesting, strong images with an instantly identifiable message. Sometimes juxtaposition is used simply to strengthen the impact of the image. This is probably why so many photographers like to shoot fashion in abandoned buildings – the contrast is interesting.

As with all composition techniques, juxtaposition makes the image more eye catching. Not only does it grab the viewer’s attention, it also holds it longer.

How to use juxtaposition in composition?

Although juxtaposition is used in all forms of photography composition, it is most commonly used in:

  • street photography
  • portrait photography
  • fashion photography
  • documentary photography
  • travel photography

It’s a great way to make a statement or tell a story in just one frame. Instantly, the viewer knows the purpose of the photo and what the photographer is saying. The more obvious the message is to the viewer, the better juxtaposition has been used.

Just like with conversation, juxtaposition isn’t for serious subjects only. It’s also be very effective when used ironically or humorously. If you do a quick Google image search for “Elliot Erwitt dogs” you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Find out about other composition techniques: 19 photography composition tips you need to know to be awesome

Juxtaposition can be photographed in a number of ways:

Physical objects

This is the easiest way to photograph juxtaposition. It’s simply a matter of positioning two contrasting objects in a frame. For example, a big dog and a small dog shows the contrast in size.

Moods

This is a more subtle use of the technique. An example is capturing a stormy sky over a calm pastoral scene. The juxtaposition here is between the two feelings created by the weather and contrasting scenery.

Concepts

I think this is where juxtaposition shines as a composition technique. To juxtapose two concepts is to truly use a photo to “speak a thousand words”. If you look through the entries of a photojournalism competition, you’ll be continuously confronted with the clever use of juxtaposition in composition.

The trick when juxtaposing two elements to narrate a concept is not to take the easy route with a cliché. You have to be original. A cliché example in street photography would highlighting the contrast between wealth and poverty with an image of a stockbroker walking past a homeless person.

Examples of juxtaposition in composition

As we’re photographers, let’s talk in photos rather than words… Here are examples of juxtaposition in photography composition.

Old building juxtaposed against new skyscrapers

Juxtaposition of old building versus new modern buildings

 

Beautiful young woman juxtaposed again rusty old machinery

Juxtaposition of beautiful model against rusted old machinery

 

Fluid water juxtaposed against solid rocks

Juxtaposition of soft flowing water over solid hard rocks

 

Modern day life juxtaposed against a historical image of similar activity

Caught juxtaposed scene of real life versus a poster

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Tips to take your photography to the next level! Juxtaposition is a photograph composition technique that\'s easier than it sounds, but will make a huge difference to your work! Learn to use juxtaposition for powerful photos that grab and hold attention.  #juxtaposition #photography #composition #phototips #thelenslounge
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