Mixed Media Photography Techniques

Written by brian richards
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Mixed Media Photography Techniques
Acrylics can be used to enhance a photograph. (red acrylic image by Andrew Brown from Fotolia.com)

A photograph by itself is sometimes insufficient to express an artist's vision. Incorporating other forms of media and artistic expression in the photograph can give flexibility to the art. Artists can experiment with paint, found objects, sandpaper and digital programs for different effects.

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Acrylic paint can be applied over the top of a photograph to add elements of texture to the piece. For instance, artists will paint over features of a photograph, such as a mountain in the background, to give a rockier or more jagged appearance to the mountain. This technique blends parts of the photograph that are otherwise realistic with more ethereal, fantasised versions of other objects in the scene. Artists may even paint on the mat that surrounds a photograph, such as extending flowers in a scene to spill onto the mat.

Found Objects

Artists can add found objects, such as bottle caps, leaves or clothespins to their photographs to give added depth. The art piece can be arranged like a collage with the found objects scattered over the top of the photograph, or the found objects can be attached to the photograph in a more specific, organised way. For instance, the artist may paste small leaves over the top of a tree in a photograph to give a layer of depth and realism to an otherwise static image.


Photographic prints can be distressed with sandpaper or any other abrasive surface. This distressing can be used to artificially age the portrait, or can be done specifically to create a sense of movement in the piece. Because sandpaper will remove some---but not all---of the print on a photograph, the artist can create lines and patterns in the background to suggest something specific about the scene. For example, elements can be rubbed away to downplay their importance, or a sea can be distressed randomly to suggest storminess or turbulence. With a more refined abrasive tool, such as an awl, the artist can also highlight important areas of an image, such as adding a halo around text or an individual's head.


Artists use digital photo manipulation programs such as Adobe's Photoshop, Google's Picasa or the open-source GIMP for more than just retouching their photos. The powerful graphic design elements of each piece of software can also blend digital art with photography. For instance, stylised fire can be added to a fireplace to give a scene a deeper fantasy feel, or facial features can be exaggerated or manipulated to make a real person appear like a monster or cartoon character. Digital software also allows the artist to manipulate colours, letting the artist depict an otherwise drab sky, for example, as an explosion of colour.

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