Join Julieanne Kost for an in-depth discussion in this video Unifying images through subject and theme, part of Learning Photo Compositing.
- The reason that we're starting with diptychs, which is simply two images placed next to each other, is that we need to start selecting images with intent, and then seeing the relationship that forms between those images when placed side by side. Meaning that, we're not going to just choose two random images to make our composites. Instead we're looking for two images that tell a story when placed next to each other. The interesting thing is that when a viewer looks at multiple images together, they can't help but try to create a relationship between the images and, as a result, the two images create, in fact, a third image, a composite without even touching or overlapping each other.
So we have to make sure that not only does the composition work in each image individually, but also when viewed next to each other. Now one of the simplest ways to pair images together to tell a story is by subject matter. But if we take a look at a number of examples, we quickly see that it is not only subject matter that holds an image together, but often a combination of several unifying properties including subject as well as composition coming together at one time that will make a successful pairing of images.
In fact, when two images come together in harmony, working strongly together, it's a result of everything in the two images fitting with each other. Still, I've tried to select strong examples of the primary idea that I'm trying to get across, and that first idea is selecting images based on a common subject matter or a theme. For example, in these first two images, we have the same subject matter, but they're taken from a different distance to give more detail about the story. In this second image here, again we have the same subject matter, but we're actually photographing different parts of the horse to form our story.
Here, it's the same subject again, but we're actually looking at it at a different angle, so the one on the left is front on, and the one on the right, I'm actually viewing it from a top view. Here again, is another variance on that. It's the same subject, but I'm looking at it from different angles, so here we have the actual Golden Gate Bridge on the left, and then a shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge on the right. You can also have variations on the same subject, by taking them, maybe from one side or the other. Here we've got the front of the flower and the back of the flower.
Or here it's a variation on a theme of bones with the two images that were taken from the Natural History Museum. Here we have the same subject matter, trees, but they're taken at different times of year. When I move to the next image, these are both the same subject, which is water, but they're in different states of being, one being liquid and one being ice. Now we can also use something like color as a subject. So here, the two photographs aren't necessarily related by subject, but they are related by color.
Here again, is another example of that, where green is actually the subject, not the ice nor the cactus. You can also put images together to ask questions or to create mystery, so that the viewer asks, "Why are those two images together?" And you can always put together subjects that mimic each other, like these two arches. They look the same, but in fact, they're actually not. Here's another example of that, where we have mountains on the left, and then we have different colored rocks on the right.
Here we have a shadow of a bike, and an actual icon of a bike, but there's no real bike involved at all. Now we can also select images based on relationship, symbolism, metaphor or analogy. So here for example, we have the relationship of content, the shell with the ocean. Here I have two photographs that were taken inside of a prison, we have a little red ball in the corner on the left, and the Virgin Mary on the right, which might represent maybe a loss of innocence.
Here we have a photograph of Buddha on the left, and the incense that's burning inside of the container on the right. Maybe this represents light or knowledge. In this image, we have the ocean that's vast and expansive, and for me, the ocean often represents being one with nature and being able to explore and move freely between one place and another, whereas the window on the right, even though we're looking out to the sky, that portal is a barrier between us and whatever else is out there.
So, while on the left, with the ocean might offer us a voyage, the right hand side, the window symbolizes that the passageway is closed. Now we can also select images based on mood or feeling. For example, these two images might just make me feel joy. Or these two images might convey stillness. There are images, for me, that when I put them together, they convey a nostalgic feeling, or these images, they remind me of my childhood in California.
These images actually give me anxiety because I don't like to fly, but I think for many people, they would actually be quite calming. Here, I have two images that convey isolation. And here, I have two images that really bring up a border between me and what it is that I'm viewing. So again, I'm in isolation. You can also select images that represent different states and time, and in a way, are opposites. Of course, the opposite here is also reinforced by the fact that one is black and one is white, and that the backgrounds have changed out as well, so it's a great example of using negative and positive space.
So as you can see, there are many different ways to unify images through both subject and theme.
- Unifying images through subject, theme, and composition
- Creating diptychs in Lightroom and Photoshop
- Using layers and masking to blend photographs
- Applying textures with blend modes and opacity
- Blending nighttime and daytime images
- Creating unity with color and tone