Improve your photography

with a simple triangle

Using Triangles in Composition & Posing

This trick is no secret.  In fact it’s not even a trick.  This simple compositional principle is deep rooted in our subconsciousness’ desire for simplicity and completeness.  If something is too simple it’s not complete, if it’s too complex it’s not simple… the triangle has the envied position of being the simplest of all the polygons, after all it has the minimum number of lines required to ‘close’ the shape and promote it from a simple line to a polygon.  Simple and complete, all rolled into a single entity.

The triangle has hypnotized artists for thousands of years. But you already know all that crap.

In fact, if you have read just a tiny bit about art or paid a little attention as you look at paintings by the masters (you do go to museums right?) then you know what I’m talking about.

So why read it again?  Because I’m more entertaining than your stupid art class, that’s why.

It’s hard to believe that Leonardo Davinci painted the Mona Lisa over five HUNDRED years ago.  What better example of the brilliant use of a single, prominent triangle to create a stunning and simple composition.  But wait you say, “That’s not a triangle, all the corners are cropped out.”  Well, guess what, an implied triangle is just as strong as an actual triangle… and if that doesn’t satisfy your naysaying read the evidence which suggests (and I believe) Leonardo’s masterpiece was originally larger, and probably included the entire shape.

So there.

What does this have to do with photography?

As the photographer you have ultimate control of what you show between the four edges of your frame, that is your kingdom to create whatever it is you want.  Do you need manipulate your whole photo-taking existence around worshiping the triangle and putting one into  every image?  Absolutely not, but if you spot the opportunity to invite the serendipitous triangle into your images when the opportunity presents itself then I think it will give your work that extra, subtle blend of simplicity and completeness.

Some Examples by Jake Garn

I’m not really sure why these triangles exist, I didn’t really plan them.  I think they are just part of a sub-conscious preference towards arranging subjects into triangles, or maybe it’s a sub-conscious attraction I have towards selecting these types of ‘happy accidents’ in the editing process.  Whatever it is you’ve probably noticed that a lot of my images tend to feature prominent triangles, here are just a handful.  All shot within the last 10 months.

I’d love to read your comments and thoughts about why YOU think triangles improve composition, or if you disagree completely.  Comment away!


Equipment Links

I used different equipment to achieve each of these images but here is a list of some of the items I used most. Links will take you directly to the B&H Photo Video product page for the individual item (the more you buy from them using my links the more encouraged they are to send me product to review for this blog, keep that in mind!) 🙂