Why and How: Using the Figures of Style in Nature Photography

Have you ever tried using zeugma or synecdoche in your nature photographs? I am sure yes. But you did not put words on these techniques.

These two techniques are only part of a fascinating world that I use to build my photographs: the figures of style.

In this article, I will give you the keys to use them to create your own photos.

An example of Zeugma I used to create a photograph.
An example of Zeugma I used to create a photograph.

Definition of a Figure of Style

A figure of style is a process that acts on the language and creates an effect of meaning or sound.

You can see that the definition of a style figure refers to spoken or written language. But photography is only a means of expression as I have already explained in several articles.

I will therefore transcribe the figures of style from a or written spoken language in the visual language that photography is.

Why Using Figures of Style in Photography?

The figures of style make it possible to catch the attention of the viewer. They also reinforce the meaning you want to give to a photograph and its aestheticism. The figures of style in photography have their roots in spoken or written language which is also called rhetoric.

The Alliteration

In spoken or written language, an alliteration is the repetition of one or more consonants. For example, for “whom are his snakes whistling over your heads?". The letter ‘s’s is an alliteration. It has a rhythmic effect. It is also used to make names easy to remember: for example, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck.

In photography, the word has been preserved but to evoke a particular effect. It's the repetition of a particular space in a photo. This is the most common method. He creates visual rhymes that lead the photographer's gaze.

For example, it can be the shape of a rock if it is repeated in a photo.

Alliteration is a very creative effect in photography. It especially has an aesthetic role.

The Antithesis

In spoken and written language, the antithesis consists in bringing together in the same statement two thoughts, two expressions, two words to emphasize a strong contrast. For example, Voltaire wrote "Sad lover of the dead, she hates the living". Both expressions are antagonistic.

Antithesis is the opposition of elements in a photo. For example, black and white are two opposite colors.

Opposition can also come from tonalities. When in a photo of nature, we create strong contrasts to highlight certain forms, we play on effects of antithesis.

This technique should be used moderately and wisely. It is not because there is a strong tonal contrast in a photo that it necessarily makes it fit into a frame. Antithesis is a reinforcing element. That is, the process is not particularly aesthetic, but it improves the reading of a photograph.

The Ellipse

In spoken or written language, the ellipse is a figure of style that consists of omitting one or more elements in principle necessary for understanding the text, to produce a shortening effect. It forces the receiver to mentally restore what the author ignores. For example, Eugene Delacroix wrote " I do not advance so much. The time does": the word advance is omitted in the second part of the sentence.

In photography the ellipse is also called out of scope. A photographic element is absent from a photograph. Yet the lines converge to this point that the viewer cannot see.

It is a technique that is used a lot in animal photography. An animal looks in one direction, but we do not see what it looks.

The Metaphor

In spoken or written language, a metaphor is a process of giving a word a meaning that is given to another by playing on similarities or analogies.

For example, in underwater photography, a brain coral can be seen as the brain of a human being.


In spoken or written language, hyperbola is a figure of speech that exaggerates the expression of an idea or a reality in order to highlight it. Most often it has a negative or unpleasant connotation.

In photography, hyperbola is a process that exaggerates the size of forms or photographic elements. For this, just use a wide-angle lens and get close to an element. It becomes huge then. We increase its size.

The Synecdoche

In spoken or written language, synecdoche is a particular figure for which the relation between the given term and the term evoked constitutes an inclusion or a material or conceptual dependence. As examples we can quote " the bike has punctured «: in truth it is the inner tube of a wheel. " The train spits black smoke «: it is the chimney of the train which is evoked.

In photography, synecdoche is taking part of the scene, framing it to express a whole.

The best example is that of the eye of an animal. The viewer will immediately identify the eye and the animal to which it belongs. The eye is used to suggest the whole animal.

The Inversion

In spoken or written language an inversion is a deliberate change in the natural order of words.

In photography, inversion is changing the normal order of the photographic elements. For example, the sky becomes the earth.

The Zeugma

This is a form of ellipse. The zeugma is a figure of speech to be linked by the syntax of two words or groups of words of which only one approaches logically to the verb. The two syntactically related words may be incompatible because one is abstract and the other concrete ("a book full of charm and drawings", "he asked a question and his hat") or because they appeal to different meanings of the verb: "Remember this date and a place on the train". The best-known example is given by Victor Hugo: "Dressed in candid probity and white linen."

In photography, the zeugma consists of superimposing multiple points of life. This is the technique of overprinting.


Just like lines or shapes, figures of speech are elements to know to create interesting photographs that convey messages or emotions. They make it possible to direct the gaze to reinforce the reading of an image.

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Article published on Friday, December 13, 2019 . Written by
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