Let us delve deeper into composition, this time with the “Golden triangle”, also known as the “Golden section”, or the “Golden rectangle”.
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How to draw the Golden triangle
Basic concept is that you start off with a rectangle (your viewfinder or frame), then draw a diagonal line from the bottom left to the top right of the frame.
After, you draw the “perpendicular” line from the bottom right to the top middle, which intersects the prior diagonal line at a 90 degree angle.
Lesson: Your eyes are drawn to the intersecting points, called the “eye”:
Now if you want to get nerdy, then you can complete the lines, and you can see how your eyes are drawn to the intersecting points of the lines, which is called the “EYE” (outlined in white).
Or also drawn here:
Golden triangle in bottom left corner
The Golden triangle can also be drawn in different directions. For example, drawn from the top right corner to the bottom left corner:
Also realize, you can draw two diagonal lines which are perpendicular to the primary diagonal. Therefore you have two “EYES”, or visual anchors for your eyes to fixate on:
Also drawn in the opposite direction:
Who sees this in real life?
Now, this guideline is useful for the following reason:
Think in Diagonals when you’re shooting, to create more dynamic compositions.
Also, I think the Golden triangle is a good tool to analyze your photos AFTERWARDS — to dissect and figure out why your photo compositions are good (or not).
To start, let us analyze the compositions of Henri Cartier-Bresson:
Also note, the Golden triangle can be applied to vertical images too.
1. Nude woman in water by Henri Cartier-Bresson
This photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson perfectly shows the power of the Golden triangle:
2. Legs of Martine Franck by Henri Cartier-Bresson
3. Cindy in yukata in Uji, Kyoto:
Dynamic picture of Cindy, with the Golden triangle grid applied afterwards
4. Matisse and doves by Henri Cartier-Bresson
This is just a brief primer, but think about the Golden triangle while you’re shooting, to get more dynamic diagonals, and also use it as a tool to analyze your photos afterwards.
Learn more about composition
- See all street photography composition lessons >
- 10 Minimalist ERIC KIM Compositions
- What is composition?
- 10 Inspirational Sergio Larrain compositions
- 5 Henri Cartier Bresson composition lessons
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