Creating Diptychs in Photography

What is a diptych?

A diptych is a work of art made up of two panels, intended to be displayed side by side. Originally a diptych commonly referred to a painting, created from two panels, hinged together, but the term has evolved to refer to any two-part work of art, including paintings, prints and photography.

Diptychs are often used to create a sense of balance or symmetry within a composition and aim to tell a story or convey a message through the interaction of the two panels.

Creating a diptych requires careful consideration in the selection, editing, pairing and layout of the two images in order to effectively communicate a cohesive final piece.

Creating a photographic diptych

Choosing images

To work together, the two images contained within the diptych need to relate to or complement each other in some way. This can be achieved through a number of methods.

  • colour or tone
  • subject matter
  • framing or perspective
  • concept
  • texture
  • lighting

Options for shooting or selecting images

Images shot at the same time

A diptych can be created from two images, often shot at the same time, showing different interpretations of the same thing. For example, in the image below, I have included two different angles of the same subject. Both images have been edited in the same way, this also acts to tie the separate images into one final piece.

Images shot separately

This is more often how I will put together a diptych. Finding and seeing relationships between images is a very useful skill to develop, particularly when working within bodies of work as opposed to stand-alone images – there is a lot to consider when matching and balancing images into a cohesive collection.

Both examples below are made up of images shot at different times and in different locations. In both cases, one of the two images was shot specifically to complement the other in order to create a diptych.

In this diptych, the image on the right was shot first at the beach several years ago and was originally part of another series. The image of the hands was shot against a white wall, indoors.

The images work together because

  • the tones are similar
  • the framing is similar, both have more detail at the bottom, reaching up into white space at the top
  • the composition of objects is similar

In the second example below, the image on the left was shot first inside by a window and the image of the dried flowers was shot a day or so later in the garden.

Again, these images work together because of the similar tones and because there is a theme of floral patterns running between both. I had the idea of lace in mind when creating this image and was looking to create a similar pattern and texture between the two images. They were both shot in the same lighting conditions with backlit afternoon sun which helps in matching the tones, contrast and shadows across the two. Both also feature asymmetrical composition with the main focal point coming from one side of the frame.

Editing for cohesiveness

The tones, colour, light and contrast of your two images are another important factor to consider when putting together a diptych. While your images may match (or juxtapose) successfully in theme, subject or composition, some thoughtful and cohesive editing decisions can be just as important in bringing the diptych together.

In the example below, the original edit of the image on the left had more yellow tones but was shifted to include more blue in the shadows to match the image on the right.

Original edit with more yellow tones

Putting the diptych together

Once you have selected the images that will be included in the diptych, it’s also important to consider how they sit in relation to each other in the final image. Sometimes you may need to adjust one or both images to create a flow between them.

In the diptych below, the crop of the top image was adjusted so the shoreline of the ocean lined up with the shape of the skirt in the second image, creating a connection between the two. I also added a touch of motion blur to the top image (there was already some in the shot but I wanted to exaggerate it to match the motion in the second image).

Creating diptychs can be a strong and expressive way to tell a story or convey a message through your photographs. By combining two images into a single composition, you can create depth, contrast, and meaning that may not have been present in each individual image. There are many ways to experiment with diptychs, including using different subject matter, compositions, and editing techniques and with a little exploration, you can create unique and striking images that open up endless creative possibilities.