Essence of Photography: Juxtaposition

The best photos are often successful because of the effective use of contrast. Juxtaposition is a way of showing contrast by portraying multiple subjects together that are uniquely different. Read on to find out how to use juxtaposition in your photos.

October 21, 2019

Imagine a great big muscled man standing next to a tiny little dog. If that idea put a smile on your face, you've just experienced the power of juxtaposition.

Put simply, juxtaposition is all about the contrast created by placing two different things next to each other.

Juxtaposition can be used to create powerful compelling images which grab people's attention, or even to show a ridiculous comparison which makes people laugh.

It may sound a little complicated at first, but as we will see in the following examples, it's can be quite simple once you start seeing in this way.

Consider the above photo of the bulldogs. There are some similar characteristics, but the differences of the larger older dog and cute puppy come together to create a fun picture.

What are some other ways to create juxtaposition in your photography compositions?

Similar but Different

One way to get started with juxtaposition is to look for subjects that are the same type of thing, but are different shapes or sizes.

Another idea is to find things that look visually similar, like these silhouettes, but have some aspect that sets them apart. Or subjects which are clearly different but have some commonality that creates a mirror image of their appearance or actions.

Old New Young Old

Since juxtaposition is about contrasts, themes such aging, nature vs. humanity, and old vs. new architecture all work well for this concept.

These two bridges are a great idea to show an old rusty relic next to a new modern version. The old church and modern "contemporary" sign is also an excellent example. Images which juxtapose youth and old age together are using the technique effectively.

One of These Things Doesn't Belong

Juxtaposition also works with mental contrasts. When we see something that is a little different than we might normally expect, it creates the same visual impact.

These dogs riding in cars illustrate this idea, as well as an Amish horse and buggy parked outside a McDonald's in a suburban strip mall.

Sign Language

Juxtaposition is a popular technique used in Street Photography. With the right subject at the right moment, billboards, advertisements and street signs can all be incorporated into a photo in a way that creates a new story from the various parts.

A good technique is to find an interesting billboard or sign and then wait around for a little while and watch the people, cars and other activity that pass by. With the right timing, you might create something touching, remarkable, or just plain silly.

Irony and juxtaposition go well together. For example, find a sign that prohibits something such as pets or standing on a platform, and then show your subject interacting with the scene in an unexpected way.

As these examples demonstrate, our eye is naturally drawn towards contrasting elements which grab our attention through juxtaposition.

You may have already even created photos that utilize this technique without even realizing. Or if not, you now have a new idea to try in your next photo project.

Essence of Photography is a series of tips, tutorials, and visual inspiration on a variety of photography skills and techniques.

All photos in this article were posted to the Aminus3 Photography Community and are copyrighted by their respective photographers.

Click on any photo to see a larger version or to leave a comment for the photographer.

Want to share your own juxtaposition photography experiments?

Why not Join Aminus3 Today and get started.

TOPICS: essence of photography composition

More Threads...

Ehsan Hemmati street photography

Street photographer Ehsan Hemmati is a master at depicting surreal and magical moments from the streets of Kermanshah, Iran and beyond. We asked him a few questions about his approach to photography.


Essence of Photography: Graphism

What does the golden ratio, 5000 year old monuments, and altered states of consciousness have to do with taking better photos?