Street Photography Tips : Triangles 7

Lauren Welles : A “Metzkeresque” photo (look up Ray Metzker, if unfamiliar with his work). Perfect lines, shadows, light and triangles – Fundamental elements of good composition. While I often see work like this in Street Photography, I think that verticals are much harder to get right and this one does it perfectly, making use of evey inch of the frame.

This photo dates from 2016 and was selected by Lauren Welles, a New York street photographer for a small contest. It was printed in a photobook : World Street Photography 4. I like this photo a lot, but not just for aesthetic reasons. I love it because I happened to walk past this scene. I parked a little further and I was heading on foot to another place that I had spotted. So I passed under this bridge on foot whereas I am usually on the road by car and the perspective is totally different. This place has also changed enormously since the pharaonic works that saw the roads remodeled to accommodate Aixpress, buses with dedicated 100% electric tracks. This photo is anchored in its time and we will never be able to redo this photo.

This photo serves as an intro for the subject I wanted to discuss for a while. The importance of triangles in photography and especially here in Street Photography. In this case, the triangles are obvious and visible as geometric structures. As I might have said, I’m not a huge fan of architectural photos, but I don’t disdain sometimes taking the time to compose with urban elements to do different things. This was the case for this photo below.


I had passed by this site and I liked to see these rough concrete blocks coming out of the ground. I stayed to observe the ballet of the crane which came to bring fresh concrete to pour the walls. I took the time to compose quite precisely, which I do quite rarely and I am quite happy with the result. I always have triangles in mind when I compose. Triangles make everything dynamic. This is still the case here with the tilted verticals and the many triangles that appear when you take the time to study the composition. I can confirm that all the elements are placed where I wanted them.

Very often, triangles are suggested and do not appear directly as in the previous example. We find these famous triangles with the anchor points of the composition. It could be people or just elements that I wanted to integrate into the frame. Very often in my case, it will be people. I still find it difficult to do it differently. These are some recent examples where I have worked with individuals or groups of people.

These compositions are quite simple but they work because the eye is attracted by the summits of the invisible triangle that I have put in red. Which leads us to have a dynamic reading of the photo. In any case, I work like that.

Lately I told John Harper, that I tried more and more to integrate cars, motorcycles or any other elements in my compositions. I am attracted to people and tend to focus only on them. But I tend to widen my field of view a bit when shooting to incorporate more context into my photos. Whether it’s traffic or buildings. It’s pretty funny because very early on, I started doing close-up when it’s one of the most intimidating things in Street Photography. People start with more general scenes taken from a distance and gradually move closer to be closer to people. I do the opposite! I am no longer attracted to close-ups. I want more complex scenes by integrating as many things as possible into my composition. In the photo below, there is also a suggested triangle in my composition: This red and white car coming out of the frame, the boy and the two ladies in the distance.

On this last example, I integrated these two static elements in the foreground into my composition. When I look at this photo, my eye is doing ping-pong between the different elements of the imaginary triangles that I drew for you in red. Subconsciously when I compose a photo, I am looking for elements that allow me to create these triangles. 3 is a magic number in photography. In fact it takes odd numbers, but I find it very complicated to work above 3 elements in a composition. Here in this case we have 5 elements in the composition but it is a static scene, quite far from the mess of the street.


It is true that it is quite difficult to think of everything in the street. Everything is going fast, there are a lot of unforeseen events and clutters elements. Sometimes succeeding in having a clean scene with just two elements is a challenge, but little by little you learn to spot the scenes with potential and personally I always try to make my life easier by trying to integrate static people in my compositions. I also use triangles a lot to sort my photos. To determine the potential of certain photos. Sometimes these famous invisible triangles appear during editing. This is what will make one photo more interesting than another.

All the photos were made with the Ricoh GRD4 except the opening one (Fuji XE2|18 mmf2)

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7 thoughts on “Street Photography Tips : Triangles

  • John Harper

    One thing I’ve always known is that 3 is the magic number in photography. Odds also work better than evens. Triangles I’m not quite so convinced about. Naturally I’ll of course bow to your far superior knowledge, but… in that opening Metzker image we see triangles, that’s fine. Often though it’s simply joining three points with lines, that could be demonstrated in virtually any photograph, they could be extremely tenuous though. Pick any three points and join them up. Could be argued that it has to be three points of interest, though the interesting points are going to be subjective. I need to give this some more thought perhaps. Take your second from last example. I’d draw the triangle from the guy walking up to you in the foreground, the car and the road sign. I didn’t see the two ladies. Hang on is that a square…😉 All that aside, super photography from you.
    Have a great weekend 😊

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      My eyes are constanly scanning for connections in the streets. Sometimes I see something interesting (urban art, wall, any urban element) or some interesting character and I try to link it with someone or something else, then come the triangle thing. There has to be something else . It doesn’t work every time. But I keep trying to add something else. Of course the result is a subjective thing as I made the photo according to my rules. Besides this, I follow very litlle rules in Street Photography now, but the one I always keep in mind is that Triangle thing. As I said it could be real geometry shapes or just invisble ones linking points of interest.. In this last case, triangles are juste here to emphasize on the fact that one should’nt focus on only single subjects in the frame. I did that a lot when I started SP. Close-up just to mask the emptiness of my compositions … In more complex with more points of interest, the image comes alive and your eyes travels in the frame to get all the information. About real triangles in photos, I like them pretty much. My eye are attracted by triangles. I like that shape and I find them dynamic. When I try to make a photo with real triangles, it’s like a geometry homework I need to do
      Have a great week end John !

  • John Wilson

    Triangles are fun, I think you should also emphasize triangles without people. Like bottom right on dead tree, part of tree,triangles on top of roof in that lady picture, triangles in bottom of beach chairs and implied in the light strings same picture. And the triangles in the boom first pic. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      Triangles or any other geometry shapes are important in painting, photography. The eye knows these shapes and are attracted by them. Triangles won’t make a good photo for sure but they can add some interest to the overall composition. Street photography is one of the very few genre where rules have to be broken. You can do street photography according to certain rules of composition but most of the time these rules have to be broken just to go your own way.

      • John Harper

        Perhaps we use it unconsciously. Take a look at the last post 3 or 4 days ago) I uploaded to Instagram. I know you’re not officially on Social Media. See if there’s a triangle in that composition.

        • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

          Don’t know if we’re talking avout the same post. Is it the last one ? Or the one with the two ladies and the bottle of water. Anyway, in both of them I see triangles. As you said, sometimes it’s done unconsciously because it’s something anchored in our minds and we do it without thinking. It happened to me most of the time : a mechanical thing done unconsciously