How to use juxtaposition in photography {Photographer Michael Tortorich}

April 17, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

An experienced and advanced photographer can create interesting photos by implementing juxtaposition.

What is juxtaposition? It's a simple concept, but isn't common in the snapshots you see strewn about in everyday life. You're far more likely to find an individual or group smiling falsely at the camera. Snore.

People come up to me all the time and tell me what they think would make a good photo. I always hear them out.

Here's an example of how such a conversation may go:

"Hey, Mike, you ever take pictures of trees?"

Me: "Ummm, well, nothing is really off limits..."

Cutting me off mid-sentence, they usually interject something like this: "Now listen...I've had this idea for years..."

"You know that tree down at (insert location here)? What if you took a picture of it? You know, with the moss hanging off it, and all."

Then I'll usually take their idea to a supersonic level with this gem...

"How about I look up the precise moment when the sun goes down on the day I shoot, so I can be there to place the sunset in the background?"

Usually there is a pause here because I just blew their mind.

"Whoa, man. See, that's why you rock at this photography gig, man." (Not all of my friends are hippies, I just thought that kind of slang sounded better for blog purposes).

OK, I like this idea. Really, I do. Trees are beautiful. Trees with moss are beautiful. And trees with moss and a sunset behind them are beautiful.

But we've all seen it. Would it be a spectacular shot for an amateur to put in their portfolio? Sure. Look at my website. I have lots of photos that I freely admit are good, but not great. I'm modest enough to say that there are a few cliche shots lingering around my online portfolio.

Probably the best photography advice I've ever received was simply this: "What are you trying to show?"

Think about that. What do you want people to see? Do you want them to see what you've seen? What is the point of this photograph?

A picture of a tree with moss and a sunset would make a great shot. It may say, "Look at how peaceful this scene is. It's tranquil. This is our world, and it's beautiful in all it's glory."

The musical equivalent to this would be "three chords and the truth." We're not going to invent a new genre of music. We're going to keep things in key, and tell it like it is.

Quick: What's "Louie, Louie" about? I can't make out the words, personally. But it's a fun song, and it's hung around for decades.

For a photo to make an impact, it has to have that same moxie.

In the three photos above, I wanted to capture the personalities of my subjects. This scene wasn't staged (which is really neither here nor there). The only prep work I did was to ask the two children to sit for a photo.

Then the photo created itself. All I had to do was apply my skills and knowledge in a way that wouldn't get in its way. What do I mean by this? Well, in the back of my mind, I'm constantly thinking about a few things that could absolutely ruin such a great image. I'm thinking about a few things that I want set to an optimal level: shutter, aperture, ISO, exposure, and flash (if applicable). After I check that off in my mind, I think about composition and perspective.

In the case of this photo, the time was during or near the "golden hour" when the sun's light totally rocks. I didn't spend much time on settings since I'd already taken hundreds of shots during the party (it's a good idea to periodically check since lighting situations change).

Here's where an amateur may drop the ball on this one: They peer through the viewfinder, and see a girl posing perfectly. Aww, but the little guy is not even paying attention! Better drop my camera and bring him a toy or something to get his attention.

Wrong!

This is when you snap your shutter. That's what I did, and the burst of photos produced "aww-inspiring" results.

I wish I had photos like this of my brother and I. You know what my parents have on the wall in their hallway? A picture of the two of us awkwardly smiling in what appears to be a department store studio (which are rightfully going extinct).

In the above example, the setting is a beautiful, sunny outside location. If both children were smiling genuinely at the camera, it would make for a solid portrait - one downright fit for framing and hanging.

But take that same setting, and add a little taste of contrast, and a solid photo becomes a great photo.

"Louie, Louie...Oh, baby. We gotta go."

Makes no sense right? But chances are you've heard it. You probably have it stuck in your head now (you're welcome).

The same hooks that nab us in music can grab us in photography. And that's what juxtaposition does.

About Michael Tortorich {Photographer | Writer | Journalist}

Who is Michael Tortorich? A lifelong resident of the south Louisiana swamplands, his journey as a journalist (with a specific flair for photography) began well before earning a penny for his work. He's a proud LSU graduate, holding a degree in journalism (along with minors in two avid subjects, history and psychology). He has worked full-time positions at two local television stations (in graphics and as a show producer), and as a sports editor of a suburban newspaper. He currently owns and operates Michael Tortorich Photography, LLC. The business provides a wide range of photography services, including event coverage (weddings, parties, sporting events, etc.) and portrait sessions (high school/college seniors, families, children, etc.). He also coordinates social media for the City of Donaldsonville (facebook.com/DonaldsonvilleLA and twitter.com/CityofDville), and contributes to Ascension Parish online news source, The Creole.

For more information, see:

Michael Tortorich on Facebook - https:/​/​www.​facebook.​com/​tortorich
Michael Tortorich Photography on Facebook - https:/​/​www.​facebook.​com/​MichaelTortorichPhotographyLLC
Michael Tortorich on Twitter - https:/​/​twitter.​com/​MikeTortorich
Michael Tortorich on LinkedIn - http:/​/​www.​linkedin.​com/​pub/​michael-​tortorich/​22/​35a/​a61

Call or text at 225-717-0762.

"I shoot things...with a camera."


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Based in the swampy confines of south Louisiana, Michael Tortorich Photography specializes in a variety of creative and artistic styles. {Contact: 225-717-0762}

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