Art of Photography

Rob Townsend

Exercise – Real and implied triangles



Produce two sets of three triangular compositions, one set using real triangles (actual triangle, triangle formed by perspective, inverted triangle formed by perspective) and one set using implied triangles (still life, still life inverted triangle, three people).


Canon EOS 650D with EF 18-200mm f/3.5 lens and EF 40mm f/2.8 lens.


Real triangles:

1. Bunting against a clear sky gave a strong ‘real’ triangle shape. The apex pointing down gives a feeling of instability and movement that fits the subject, as bunting moves about in the breeze. The light one against the trees and the darker ones against the sky helps the shapes to stand out.

Real triangle

Real triangle

2. Looking down onto a straight railway track until a train passed under the bridge, I got this shot of the train diminishing into the distance. The triangle doesn’t have a particularly sharp point but another bridge in the distance prevented the triangle narrowing to the horizon. However, I felt it was a strong enough triangular shape to include here. With the wide base, the shape manages to imply solidity whilst simultaneously illustrating the movement with the steep diagonal sides. The diminishing perspective adds a lot of depth to the image. I shot this at the widest angle possible with this lens, 18mm, to emphasise the triangular aspect.



3. It took me a while to work out how to achieve this effect, but on wandering under a footbridge that I’d been shooting from, it dawned on me that shooting upwards to a long structure like this would provide the inverted triangle that I needed. The feeling I get from looking at this is of something fairly precarious, quite different to the solidity implied by the previous photo. Again, a sense of depth is created from the perspective, and again this was at 18mm to make the most of the triangle formed.

Inverted perspective

Inverted perspective


Implied triangles:

4. I tried here to get a triangular shape implied without being too regimented, making it look as if the corks had been thrown haphazardly and somehow managed to fall in a composition that was pleasing to the eye.

Still life

Still life

5. Here I made a conscious decision to make the triangle quite regimented and symmetrical. This brings some order to the image that helps to offset the natural tendency for inverted triangles to look unstable. It draws the eye downwards to the front doll.

Inverted still life

Inverted still life

6. The three heads make a (fairly flat) triangle, and the overall image has a larger triangle formed by the arms. This gives a pleasing balance to the image.

Triple portrait

Triple portrait


What I’ve learned:

There are a lot of triangles about, once you start looking for them. In a similar manner to my findings on diagonal lines, I found that they may not be obviously or inherently triangular in form, but choice of angle, perspective, lighting and composition can ‘make’ things triangular. This type of compositional manipulation is fairly new to me, but I think I can see the uses of it. I appreciate the way that an implied triangle can suggest stability and balance, and enclose they key parts of the image in a fairly simple way. I will look for uses of this technique in my photography in future.


2 thoughts on “Exercise – Real and implied triangles

  1. Looks like you are much into b/w lately.

    • I am! There’s a reason for that… the current module of the course (Elements of Design) recommends sticking to b/w to avoid the distraction of colour, and focus on the lines, shapes etc. But I like it!

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