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Juxtaposition

A group of men posing in Sylhet Bangladesh

Juxtaposition

When taking photos of people in a dynamic environment (and here I am talking about South East Asia in general), it is very important to try and keep the photo as simple as possible. Capturing something too messy, unless it is composed in a very smart way, will catch the viewer’s attention away from the main subject, and story to be told.

 

When taking photos in a very busy place, like a busy market, or event, or festival, things can very easily look messy and confusing. People are scattered all over the frame and do not help direct the attention to a particular subject. Mostly, the problem comes when different people, or subjects, are hiding each other by being juxtaposed. If one person is partly hiding another one, it gives a feeling that the photo was not very well thought, and not taken at the right moment.

 

These are examples of badly juxtaposed people (taken over the last few weeks while I had this article in mind. Also, taken over my whole photography career, as it is not an easy thing to do to organize people in Asia!). Needless to say, complete failures!

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You can tell there was an idea behind the composition, but the fact that the people are “on” each other does not help create simplicity in it. Plus, you would see that it is often a matter of milliseconds to get the right shot. But, as we are now (most of us) using digital, we can afford to “click click click”.

 

Getting the composition right when shooting a busy scene requires a lot of anticipation and the right timing. It means that there is no time for camera settings (they should be ready, refer to my article about the process to take a photo to know more about it).

Also, and as people tend to move fast, often in an unpredictable way, it is necessary to have a “heavy” finger and take a lot of frames. This will increase the chances of getting it right.

Now, here are some better examples of busy scenes where the different subjects to not hide each other:

People take a spiritual bath in the water of the Ganges in Kolkata, India

 

Silouhettes of fishermen and their reflection in a puddle of water in a market in central Vietnam during a photography tour with Pics of Asia

A group of fishermen push their boat into the waves as they come back from a night at sea in a fishing village near Hoi An, Vietnam

Cricket players cheer for the winning ball, taken at sunset along the Brahmaputra river in Bangladesh during a photography tour by Pics of Asia

 

A group of women picking up tea leaves in a plantation of central Sri Lanka, taken during a photography tour with Pics of Asia

 

Men selling fresh fish in the wet market of Sa Dec in Vietnam's Mekong Delta


Etienne

Founder of Pics of Asia, Etienne is a teacher with a photography habit.

4 Comments

  1. Victoria Sheehy on December 20, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks Etienne. Love your free tutorials.

  2. […] tried to compose with several women and the water spraying trying not to juxtapose them. As the sun was half hidden behind the clouds I could get a perfect exposure but I easily […]

  3. Val Meri on March 24, 2019 at 8:03 pm

    I don’t think only one of these photos is a “failure”– the last one. The juxtapositions in the first 4 shots add to the interest of the photo and are not out place. Even the photo of the little girl partically hidden between the blur of passing people is fine, though not perfect. The girl seems to be lost among adults. On side of her face is very slightly blurred by an arm, which is a weakeness. So almost a success, but not really a failure.
    On the other hand, your “better examples” are a different sort of pictures. They are all basically silhouettes, where clear separation of figures is almost alway good and and juxtapositions rarely work.

    • Etienne on March 28, 2019 at 2:28 pm

      You are very right Val, thanks for the comment. Shooting silhouettes helps to add more layers in the frame, but then a clear separation is needed. As you say, weaknesses can make a picture more powerful, it’s all about the little imperfections!

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