Karen Turner PHD | The Triangle, and Why It’s Important in Your Photographs
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The Triangle, and Why It’s Important in Your Photographs

The Triangle, and Why It’s Important in Your Photographs


for Boomeryearbook.com by Barbara Stitzer

I was so tone deaf in my elementary school band that the teacher had me play the triangle. Do you remember that instrument? A steel triangle with a string attached to a little key attached that you could tap the triangle with and make a little “ding” sound. But that story has to wait for another day, because today, we’re talking about visual triangles.

Why do people stop at one particular shot and ignore another? When you take a picture, you want someone to pick it out from all of the other pictures and call it special, right? The answer can be achieved by triangles of the same color, pose and line. When one or more of these three elements are in a triangle, the eye can’t help but stay on the subject, which is what you want. Triangles force your eye to dart back and forth over the picture, almost mesmerizing you and forcing you to stay focused on the photograph longer than normal,

Here is a shot I did for a musician. He wanted to look professional, but also fresh and new. So I threw my husband’s leather jacket on him for a little bit more of an edgy look than a simple shirt, and had him lean forward on his elbow. He automatically put his hand up, forming triangle number one…his bent arm pointed straight up to his face. I had him tilt his head to camera left, so that his eyes formed an angle leading him back onto the page, forming triangle 2, in the purple, with his head…the angle makes your eye keep going around and around his face. The subject’s texture of his hair and beard in Photoshop were all the same, forming triangle 3, and I took an eyedropper full of the color of the shadow in his face to create the color of the background, forming color triangle 4. Of course, his piercing blue eyes and the Rembrandt lighting on the subject’s face didn’t hurt, but we’ll talk about lighting in another issue.

What if you have more than one subject? ‘The more triangles the “acuter”,’ I always say. Triangle number one, of Annelize, on the left, has her hand over her head with the inside of her elbow opening up to her have, and Amelia, on the right, has her arms crossed over her chest, with the hands open and framing her face in triangle 2. Triangle 3 passes through Annelize’s eyes, down through one of Amelia’s eyes, and might have gone down and to the right if it hadn’t of been for her hands forming that pocket that just forces your eyes back to Annelize. Triangle 4 is subtle…it’s a line of reds, from the bottom of Annelize’s hair, up to the tiny dot in the top of her hair, over to her red lips. And Triangle 5 is also a color triangle—the pea green in the background to the left of Annelize to the top of her hair, which leads to the crook of Amelia’s arm. Do you see it? Good, now get out there and take some triangly pictures!

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