The Golden Triangle
The Golden Triangle Artistic Composition Rule
Creating a memorable photo requires more than aiming the camera in the general direction of a pretty view. If you want your images to look like the ones you see on the Instagram pages of famous photographers, you must use an artistic composition rule like the Golden Triangle.
What is the Golden Triangle?
Using the idea of triangular shapes in photographs isn’t new. It reflects what we see in our environment. The image of a group of friends always looks better when the tallest person is in the middle, and the shorter ones are at the sides. This mirrors majestic natural shapes like the Matterhorn mountain in Switzerland and architectural marvels like the Great Pyramid of Giza. In their upright form, looking at these triangles has an uplifting psychological effect. The triangle’s wide base and pointy top make it look solid and stable. Can you now imagine an inverted pyramid with its tip wedged in the desert sand? It seems likely to topple at any moment. Just looking at this image makes many people uncomfortable. It gives the feeling of instability and creates tension. This is the power that triangles of different shapes have on the viewer.
The Golden Triangle is different from both of the examples just described because it varies from the equal-angled triangle. It’s not symmetrical, so it affects you in other ways. Look at the Golden Triangle on the Wise Camera app and imagine the apex of the large triangle overlaid onto the scene of railway tracks. This produces a stunning image of perspective. Because this upright triangle is simple and has a well-defined shape, it brings a feeling of order and depth to the image.
The Golden Triangle has a line running diagonally from one corner to the other. This makes two triangles. A line is then drawn from one of the other corners to meet the diagonal line at right angles. Because of the rectangular shape of a standard photograph, these triangles differ in size. This is what creates the dynamic tension in the image, making it so interesting. Placing your subjects on angles to match the lines on the iPhone’s screen makes a balanced but lively composition. Diagonal lines help you avoid static and boring shots, suggesting movement and flow instead. Because of the way the Golden Triangle’s shapes dominate an image, they lead the viewer’s eyes on an adventure, traveling from one compositional element to the next. It’s a subtle process that happens without awareness, but it makes us enjoy a photo more.
When to Use the Golden Triangle
The best way to use the shape of the Golden Triangle in a composition is to fill one of the triangles with the main subject or diagonal position shapes from a scene, so they run along with two of the lines. Placing a significant part of the subject matter at a point where two guidelines intersect gives you extra bonus points for composition.
A good photo always tells a story; it takes the viewer on a journey around the picture. Through the Wise Camera app, use the largest triangle for your main subject, so it forms a solid foundation for the rest of your story, then lines up another element in one of the triangles pointing towards the main feature. Shafts of light through shadowed streets, extended legs of a beautiful model, and rolling hills in landscape shots are all perfect examples of how the Golden Triangle is used to create balanced and exciting photos. For even greater effect, place supporting elements along any of the diagonal lines. If necessary, tap the screen to switch the triangles around, so your scene fits this form of composition in a natural way.
Landscapes with large, sloping mountain ranges and seascapes with waves rising to one side of the frame — they all have diagonal lines that fit the classical Golden Triangle format. Download the Wise Photos app to see how your photos improve through clever cropping and the thoughtful placement of the main parts of the photographic story you are telling through your image. With the Wise Photos app, you can easily overlay Golden Triangle lines onto one of your existing photos to check, adapt, and improve composition.
The Golden Triangle composition is also helpful in portrait photography. If a standard, upright portrait looks a bit dull, have the person lean forward while seated. Bending the arms and legs makes diagonals that fit the Golden Triangle. Then move in close to your subject for another shot and use the two focal points at the intersection of the lines to emphasize the combination of their head and shoulders. Move closer again and do the same with the eyes and face. Or step back and use the angle of the person’s body to follow the main diagonal while keeping the face at an intersecting line.
How Does it Improve Your Photos?
Every photo is improved by thoughtful composition, and the Golden Triangle provides structure to an image that is balanced yet lively. The viewer becomes engaged with the image because, for a change, their eyes track diagonal lines rather than the traditional horizontal and vertical format.
Roads, fences, and rivers are good examples of diagonal lines that offer perspective and depth to an image. Starting from the corner of the scene, the viewer follows these lines, and they are taken deeper into the story of the image, finding interesting subplots along the way. Incorporating lines and angles into your compositions create eye-catching photos. And the Golden Triangle makes your subject stand out in an intelligent and classical way.
Although the Golden Triangle isn’t commonly known, it was used in paintings and sculptures for centuries. And this artistic composition rule is still used by many professional photographers to make their images more sophisticated. The next time you switch on your iPhone’s camera, open the Wise Camera app and look for triangular shapes to create an image that is unique and powerful.
A little about me. I love creating digital products! Making Apple apps has been a fantastic creative outlet and a collaborative experience with many talented people. Helping others with what I love to do inspires me. You can find all my apps at my Digiguys Apps website.