Juxtaposition Examples In Photography:
What Does It Mean,
How To Apply It, And
How It Can Really Transform Your Images
Like it’s pronunciation, juxtaposition is one of those compositional rules that seems tricky at first but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy.
Ironically, you might often be using juxtaposition in your photography without even know you are doing it. However, a little knowledge can go a long way in the right hands. Today we are going to give you a basic overview of this powerful but underused photographic technique.
What Is Juxtaposition?
As photographers, we are well aware of contrast. Contrast defines the variation between different levels of light in our exposure. Juxtaposition has a very similar effect except that instead of light, we are using physical objects or concepts to create a visual contrast in our scene.
To create a juxtaposition, we must have at least two objects or concepts in our scene. You can also have more.
If we use physical objects as a juxtaposition, they must each have a strong presence within the frame. Our eyes must be drawn to each of them individually to allow our brain to process the contrast between them.
When we use concepts or moods as a juxtaposition, we must make it clear what each of those concepts are. This is somewhat more difficult than using physical objects as the viewer needs not only to identify the concepts but also to process how they contrast together.
Perhaps a better way to demonstrate juxtaposition is visually rather than with words. So let’s take a look at some different types of Juxtaposition with photographs to demonstrate it.
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Juxtaposition Examples Using Scale
Scale is a classic use of juxtaposition. It is both physical and conceptual at the same time. In this shot below there are in fact several types of juxtapositions taking place.
The obvious of many juxtaposition examples is scale, and this is multi levelled. The one that jumps out is the scale of the ship compared to the iceberg. However, if you look deeper, there is a juxtaposition between the people on the ship and the ship, as well as the inflatable boat and the ship.
There is a conceptual juxtaposition between the man-made ship and the beauty of nature in the Antarctica. Lastly, there is a juxtaposition in color. This is the contrast between the deep blue of the ocean and the ship and the white of the iceberg.
Juxtaposition Examples Using Irony
Irony can be a juxtaposition too.
It is a conceptual contrast that we often shoot without noticing it, particularly when shooting street photography. The image below was consciously taken with the idea to create an ironic juxtaposition between the static go slow sign and the speeding traffic.
Although the cars were not necessarily speeding, by using a slow shutter speed I gave the impression of speed to contrast the very static sign.
Juxtaposition Examples Using Mood
Juxtaposition of mood is often used in landscape photography. A beautiful sweeping landscape can look great in a single mood, for example a tranquil sunrise.
However, if you add in a secondary mood such as an impending storm on the horizon, the juxtaposition between the two can bring that landscape alive.
When we look at such a picture we feel the optimism of a new day contrasted with what might happen if the storm arrives. It is a very powerful compositional tool for landscape photographers.