The Golden Triangle rule is a concept in photography that every good photographer should learn, as it will help set a solid foundation upon which great photos can be taken. Novice photographers often have trouble with composition, so learning about what the Golden Triangle rule is and how you can use it effectively will set you off on the right path in your new hobby. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Golden Triangle rule and how to best use it in your photography.
What is the Golden Triangle
When you apply the Golden Triangle rule to your photography, you’re setting the stage for successful photography. It involves composing pictures in a classical fashion to create a sense of symmetry, clarity, and even harmony. This visual rule for composition can help you align your subject and other elements in the frame.
You’re not physically smushing your subject into the shape of a triangle, however! You’re just aligning them within imposed, imaginary guiding lines that form four triangles over top of your snapped image. Just like the rule of thirds, this can help you align the composition proportionately within the frame.
Where did the Golden Triangle rule come from?
Originally developed when composing paintings, it began as a way to align subject elements in the frame to display a sense of symmetry and planned composition. By dividing a frame in half diagonally (from one corner to the other), and then dividing those two parts perpendicular to your first line with each new line offset slightly toward their respective sides, you create four triangles within the frame.
The focus of your subject(s) would then be centred in the apex of those intersections. Similar to the rule of thirds, this composition technique helps align your subject(s) properly within the frame to create a better composition and bring balance to the overall image.
Even though this concept was originally developed for paintings, it translates very well to modern photography. The Golden Triangle rule helps novice and professional photographers alike compose their frames in such a way that viewers are drawn to the intended points.
How to apply the Golden Triangle rule in Photography
The two intersecting points in the triangle grid described above pinpoint two things: guiding lines and points of interest for your subject.
For the leading lines, you will want to align your subjects with the lines directionally. This is the main way that this composition concept differs from the rule of thirds, which is a grid pattern. You will want this leading line to lead to the point of interest for your subject(s).
For example, if you are taking a shot of a wild wolf out in the forest, you’ll want to adjust your position so that the body of the animal falls on the guiding line and the head rests within the point of interest. This draws the line naturally along the body in a symmetrical way in comparison to the rest of the image.
If you are shooting a landscape, perhaps a coastal highway, then aligning the road along a guiding line would allow you to follow the Golden Triangle Rule.
Concerning points of interest, this is almost self-explanatory. Make sure that the portion of the image that you want to be focused on fall at one of the intersection points. This is your main points of interest. For example, the wolf’s head we mentioned above would need to be centred not in the actual centre of the frame, but instead at where your diagonal lines intersect. When shooting a portrait, the dominant eye of the subject should be centred within one of these points of interest.
Does the Golden Triangle rule work for every subject?
Technically, yes. In practice, not really. While photography can be subjective, some settings do not lend themselves well to the Golden Triangle rule and might be better composed using the rule of thirds. The grid pattern for the rule of thirds may be better applied to certain landscapes, for example.
The Golden Triangle rule is a preferred composition technique for portraits, but not in the standard sense. A standard portrait will have the subject centred, solitary, and looking straight at the camera. This rule is better applied to subjects either sitting or laying down so that you can better arrange your angles and create diagonals that trace the guiding lines.
If you have a sprawling landscape to shoot, the Golden Triangle Rule can help you best align elements leading up to your subject. For example, if you’re shooting a lone tree in a meadow, you can align trails or even rocks in the meadow along the leading line so that the tree itself sits as a point of interest.
How will you know if you’ve aligned your subject correctly?
In photography, since so much can be subjective, it’s great when you can find a technical aspect that you can control. Always take lots of shots, so that you can review them and choose the best one. These shots can allow you to see if what you’ve shot falls as a point of interest and actually landing where it should per the Golden Triangle rule lines.
For new photographers that might struggle with composition, this is a surefire way to make sure that your basic compositions and framing is going to bring out the best of your photos.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.