Street Photography Composition – The Myth Of Triangles

I’m not sure how much reading you’ve done about Street Photography composition, all the regular characters are there like leading lines, reflections, framing, rule of thirds, etc., and a few others.  One such compositional element is the mythical triangle.  I only say mythical because it’s an afterthought at best.  If you watch Street Photography tutorials or read articles on composition you’ll see images that depict the use of triangles in the composition (usually they have hand drawn triangles drawn all over the image to hammer home the point) touted as being superior images because the photographer was able to find triangles hidden in the geometry of the image.

Why Is It A Myth?

Have you ever seen someone accidentally do something fairly impressive and then comment “I meant to do that!”?  Triangles in candid Street Photography is a lot like that.  Sure, if you’re directing your subjects to move here and there you can certainly create triangles till your heart’s content but if you’re shooting candid Street Photography you are going to have to rely on luck and preparation.  Even then, I would argue it’s not the driver in making your image a better image…  I can find plenty of triangles in crappy images as well.


If I were writing about the benefits of using triangles in Street Photography you’d see lines traced over the subject and his barrels in the middle of this frame and read something like “look how awesome I am because I made an amazing triangle”.  In reality, the triangle was merely an after thought, a coincidence if you will.  The composition driver here is the movement…  The subject in mid gate is what makes this a fairly decent shot.  You could also comment that the image has repetition in shapes (look at the circles at the end of each barrel in relation to the subject’s head in his beanie hat that also resembles a circle), but again, it was a mere coincidence.

Do Triangles Strengthen Your Street Photography Shots?

No, they are afterthoughts, products of coincidence.  I would bet good money that 9 out of 10 of your shots will have a triangle somewhere in them without you even trying.  Look at the image above and count out how many triangles you can find (7+).  The point is, triangles are in just about every photograph (even bad ones) in some way, so touting them as composition builders doesn’t make much sense.  Kind of like the age-old question; which came first, the egg or the chicken?


My point is this, finding triangles in photographs (good or bad) doesn’t mean it’s a successful image.  The fact that successful images often have triangles buried in them in some way or another is not a surprise considering you could make a triangle out of just about any number of items in a frame…  Any frame.

Do you disagree?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  Are you a huge fan of triangles in your composition?  Do you purposefully look for them like an Egyptian building Pyramids?


  • coastingnz says:

    Finally some one is agrees with my thinking on this subject.Ive always thought the triangle thing was a load of bollocks.

    • John Barbiaux says:

      Haha, I wondered what type of reaction that post would get. Thanks for the feedback, it’s nice to know there are others that feel the same way.

  • John Nguyen says:

    I think triangle works best if in a very clean / emty background – and you have three interesting point, like 3 people, 2 cat 1 dog etc… Otherwise, try to shoot a triangle in street photography is a non sense.

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