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Composition with triangles


Composition is the arrangement of different visual elements according to a predetermined strategy and is essential in both painting and photography because it:

  1. Can create order in the chaos of the whole.

  2. Determines how the viewer experiences the work of art.


In construction theory, the triangle is the strongest of all shapes. It can withstand pushing and pulling forces and is therefore dimensionally stable. It is therefore an excellent basis for building bridges and buildings, for example. But because the triangle is such a strong and stable element, it can also be used very well in creating a good composition.

Below I will discuss three methods where you can use triangles in a composition in different ways to make it more attractive to look at.

Method 1

For centuries, painters have used triangles to create a balanced composition. Below you see the painting The Holy Family by Raphael, where the triangle (visible with the red lines) contains the most important elements. The lines of the triangle also lead the viewer's eye from one corner to the other, thus keeping his or her attention, as it were, 'captured' on the most important elements in the composition.

When multiple triangles are used, this also offers the opportunity to create a more dynamic composition. A commonly used tool for this is the so-called Golden Triangle.

This produces a total of four triangles of two different sizes. You can then fill one of these triangles with the subject as above in Raphael's painting or you can place different elements of the composition along one or more of these lines as I have done below.

Method 2

It is also possible to create a triangle in a composition by placing three elements in the image in such a way that together they form a triangle. This may sound a bit vague, but below is another example based on one of my own photos.

The best part is when you manage to fill the entire image with these three elements. In this case too, the viewer will let his or her eyes wander from one point of the triangle to the other, drawing attention to your photo for longer. Exactly what you want of course! And if you also manage to place the lines of the triangle diagonally, this will again increase the dynamics of the composition.

This method sounds very simple, but I can assure you that it is really not easy to achieve such a composition in a busy and fast-moving environment, such as the photo above on the street in Mumbai. What can help you first and foremost is to always have your camera ready with the right settings so that you can respond quickly to certain situations. Another technique, once you have found two elements, is to wait until the third element comes into view. Exactly what I did in the photo above. Naturally, the photographer's patience is sometimes tested.

Method 3

The last method is the easiest of the three. You simply look for visible triangles in your area. Other shapes such as circles or squares can of course also be used to make a composition more interesting. Sometimes these shapes are explicit and you just can't ignore them like in the next photo.

Other times you will also have to be a little more patient with this method and search a bit for the right position to 'create' one or more triangles. How many triangles do you count in the photo below?

I hope it has become somewhat clear that triangles can significantly improve a composition. In summary: they can provide a good balance and more dynamics. And you can also use triangles to hold the viewer's attention longer, so that what you are trying to say with your photo comes across better.

Below are a few more examples in which I have applied the three methods described.

Using the second method is also a good prelude to applying multiple layers in a composition. This creates more depth in a two-dimensional image, which can also make for a more attractive creation. In the photo below I have attempted to add depth to the composition in this way.

Maybe this blog can be a little inspiration for the next time you go out with your camera. Give it a try, it's really fun and challenging. And also look at previous photos you have taken. Who knows, there may be compositions that you have always found very enjoyable to look at, but never knew exactly why. It may well be that you have already unconsciously and instinctively applied one of these methods. That happened to me too.


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