I don’t normally rant, but this has been bothering me for quite some time. I try not to worry about what gets written on the Internet because I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions and it’s healthy to have many different opinions for others to pick and choose what works for them. Let’s face it, there is no hard and fast rule that photographers must abide by.
With that being said, the idea that a photograph is successful because you are able to form a triangle within the frame by drawing a line from multiple subjects or elements within said frame is silly. A triangle can be formed in just about any photograph regardless of the strength of its composition.
I’ve been waiting for someone else to blow the lid off this circus and more eloquently explain to the masses why triangle composition is so questionable. I’m fairly confident that, if you set aside your allegiance to whichever photographer told you triangle composition is a real thing, I can prove to you that “triangle composition” makes as much sense as opening an umbrella indoors.
Triangle composition says that a successful image works so well because you were able to connect imaginary dots between supporting elements within the frame that magically create a triangle. I’m simply arguing that you can form a triangle in just about any photograph, good or bad, so “triangle composition” is ridiculous.
If we are simply drawing shapes on images after we take them and claiming that is why they are successful, why not squares? Or circles? Simple logic. In fact, there is a real rule of composition that is at play when photographers start talking about triangles…
So What’s Really Going On
The actual term that should be used when you are looking at a successful image where you can “connect the dots” into whatever shape you’d like (triangle included) is Directional Force. Directional force is simply defined as paths created or implied within an image that lead the eye through the composition.
The difference between this and “triangle composition” is that triangle composition doesn’t explain why you can draw a triangle between objects within poorly composed images and images with seemingly great composition interchangeably.
At the end of the day, just about any image has elements where you can draw a triangle between them, but not all images have good directional force, or flow. So next time you read an article about triangle composition please consider the fact that you can draw a triangle on just about every photograph by connecting various elements within the frame regardless of the image’s perceived quality.
Author’s Note: This article is simply meant to encourage photographers to think freely and shake free of others opinions (mine included if you disagree with what I’ve said). In no way is this article directed at any specific person or organization. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
About the author: John Barbiaux is a self taught fine art photographer based out of Pittsburgh, PA. He’s been published in National Geographic Magazine and written a bunch of articles. More recently, he has been places and done things. You can see many of his installations between Pittsburgh and Boston and even Los Angles.