The Importance Of Juxtaposition

Hang out in photography circles long enough and you’ll likely hear the word juxtaposition thrown around.  If you’ve never heard the word before you’ll be equal parts impressed and annoyed by the person who said it.  Why not just say contrast? I’ll tell you why, saying contrast isn’t nearly as fun as saying juxtaposition.


The fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

Creating the image above was a very deliberate process.  I knew I liked the massive columns but simply photographing them without anything to compare them to was rather boring.  Once I figured out that I needed a person to walk through the frame it wasn’t enough to simply capture a person walking.  I wanted to slow my shutter speed to the point where you could tell it was a person but there was no way to discern hard features.  Composing the image this way creates much more interest than the columns alone or a person simply walking through the frame.

First, a person walking through the frame with hard features and discernible expressions takes away from the main subject which is the architecture.  Second, the size of the person as well as the soft blurred lines of their body in motion are juxtaposed against the hard lines of the large columns and surrounding architecture.

In addition to planning out the juxtaposition that I’d like to capture, this image was planned down to the hour the image was shot and the exact distance I wanted to be from where the person would walk through the frame.  Any closer to the camera and the perspective of the lens would make the person look larger.  Any further and the person would look like a Lapution (the small people from Gulliver’s travels…  Come on, read a book man).  I’ve discovered that if I put as much thought into planning out the images I’d like to capture as I do in picking out a camera or new lens my success rate increases substantially.  Seems obvious, right?

When thinking of juxtaposition or contrast try to think of it as more than just light and dark.  Think about shapes, textures, and everything in between…  As an exercise, try to create an image that uses juxtaposition in more than one way.  You can share the images with us on the PhotolisticLife Facebook page or in the PhotolisticLife Flickr page.

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6 replies on “The Importance Of Juxtaposition”
  1. says: Lewsh

    I’ve never planned a specific juxtaposition as I am constantly on the move. I’ve found that most of the time, seeing large against small or light against dark is an instantaneous gut feeling. Your photo shows the size and strength of the architecture quite well. Nice photo.

  2. says: Patrick

    So if I understand correctly you could have placed Bombur ( or another really fat round dwarf ) closer to the camera without Bombur having to be blurred ?

    1. says: John Barbiaux

      Not sure you understood but I’m not gonna fight the placement of fictitious dwarfs into images, it could only help.

  3. says: Raincheck

    I read a book. And they were called Liliputions in the book. But whatever. Nice article, illustrated the point well and described the planning and patience involved in getting the shot.

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