In this guide, I’ll be covering everything you need to know about triptych photography.
I’ll be diving into the definition, why it’s popular, 15 tips for creating triptychs, and lots more!
With that being said, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
What Is Triptych Photography?
In the simplest terms, a triptych in photography is a composition of three associated or interconnected images.
It’s like a trilogy in literature or a three-act structure in a movie. Each picture in the triptych is a visual echo of the others, and together they tell an amplified story.
Imagine this – you’ve just returned from a vacation and you’re surrounded by a multitude of wonderful photographs.
You’re trying to select just one image to capture the essence of your experiences, but you find it hard to encapsulate so many moments into a single picture. This is where triptych photography comes into play.
Originally hailing from religious artwork, where three panels were hinged together to display narratives of faith, triptych photography has expanded and found its own secular resonance.
Creating a triptych image is somewhat like arranging the pieces of a puzzle – each picture must be carefully chosen to contribute a crucial aspect to the overall story or theme.
For instance, let’s say you have images from a beach vacation. You might incorporate a shot of a sunrise to give a sense of the beginning, a mid-day picture displaying the vibrancy, and finally a sunset to signify the satisfying conclusion of your holiday.
This would transport anyone who views your triptych right to those moments.
The flexibility in triptych photography is also a delight, offering numerous possibilities for the arrangement, framing, and scaling of the images.
Some artists even experiment with contrasting color backgrounds or different picture sizes to create an added sense of depth. Believe me when I say, playing around with these different elements is as enjoyable as it is fulfilling.
15 Tips to Create Triptych Photography
Here are 15 tips and ideas when it comes to creating triptych photography:
1. Unified Theme
The first tip when creating triptych photography is to have a unified theme.
Having a consistent theme or subject is crucial when it comes to choosing and selecting the three panels together.
The theme could be a concept, a color scheme, or a certain narrative — the choice is yours!
The second tip when creating triptych photography is to tell a story.
This may seem cliche, but you’ll want to try and tell a story or visual narrative across the panels.
Each panel should contribute to the overall story while also standing on its own.
For example, having your subject complete an action and photographing them at each stage of the process:
The third tip when creating a triptych is composition.
You’ll want to not only pay attention to the composition of each panel but how they all work together as well.
It’s important to strike a balance between unity and individuality.
4. Symmetry and Balance
The fourth tip when creating a triptych is to have symmetry and balance.
Symmetrical compositions are a very popular compositional technique when creating triptychs because it helps create a sense of cohesion between the images.
Alternatively, you could play around with asymmetry as well for dynamic tension.
5. Color Harmony
The fifth tip when creating a triptych photograph is regarding color harmony.
I recommend maintaing a consistent color harmony throughout the triptych because consistent color toines help add to that sense of unified visual experience.
For example, you could have a triptych of autumn leaves in different shades of red, orange, and yellow, maintaining a consistent color palette across all three panels.
In this image example, it’s an analogous color harmony of green, red, and yellow:
6. Contrast and Variation
The sixth tip when creating a triptych is to consider having subtle contrast and variation.
While you want your panels to be consistent, it’s also good to incorporate some subtle variation in color, texture, or lighting to add some interest and depth to your triptych.
For example, imagine a triptych of waves.
The first panel shows calm waters, the second captures moderate waves, and the third displays a powerful crashing wave, showcasing variations in intensity.
In this image example, here’s a variation of the different rocks and the formation they are in:
7. Visual Flow
The seventh tip when creating a triptych is to have visual flow.
I recommend arranging the panels so that the viewer’s eye naturally flows from one panel to the next.
Consider the placement and order of your panels and the direction of movement or gaze.
Most people look from left to right (in the USA at least) and top to bottom.
8. Narrative Order
The eighth tip when creating a triptych is to have narrative order.
This tip is similar to telling a story within your image but this tip ties into havin gyour panels in chronological or logical order in the overall narrative.
You’ll want to arrange the panels accordingly so you can help guide the viewer’s understanding.
For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, you could have a triptych showing the stages of a couple’s relationship: the left panel represents their first meeting, the center their courtship, and the right their wedding day.
Here’s an example showind the order of how a sunflower blooms:
9. Size and Proportion
The ninth tip when creating a triptych is to consider your size and proportion of each panel.
It’s ideal to keep the size and proportion of each panel consistent for a balance presentation.
For example, if you had one panel that was cropped a certain way to be a lot larger than the other two then it might throw off the collective effect of the triptych.
10. Negative Space
The tenth tip when creating a triptych is to use negative space.
Negative space is a popular compositional technique that involves leaving breathing room between your main subject and the framing area.
For example, you could have a lone boat on a calm lake. The negative space around the boat would enhance the feeling of solitude and tranquility.
11. Repetition and Patterns
The eleventh tip is to have repetition and patterns.
Incorporating repeating elements or patterns is a great way to connect your panels visually — emphasizing the sense of unity within your triptych.
12. Capture Different Perspectives
The twelfth tip when creating a triptych photograph is to consider capturing different perspectives.
I recommend experimenting with having each panel represent a different perspective on the subject.
For example, if you have a triptych of a mountain peak. The first panel could show mountain from a distance, the second could display a mid-range shot, and the third panel could offer a close-up view of the peak’s details.
Here’s an example showing different perspectives of a bee:
13. Lighting Consistency
The thirteenth tip when creating a triptych is to having consistency in your lighting.
Having a conistent lighting style across you panels is generally good unless you are going for a creative storytelling aspect.
But generally, similar to having a consistent color tone, you should have consistent lighting as to avoid distractions and maintain visual coherence throughout your panels.
14. Editing Style
The fourteenth tip when creating a triptych is to have a consistent editing style.
Having a consistent editing style throughout your panels will ensure they all share a common visual language.
Adjustments in your color and/or using a filter preset will ensure they all tie together.
15. Test Arrangements
The fifteenth and final tip when creating a triptych is to test your panel arrangements.
Before finalizing any arrangement, you’ll want to ensure you experiment with different arrangements.
Try different orders and spacing to find the best configuration.
Don’t go into it thinking it has to look perfect from the beginning. Lay it out online in your favorite editing software before printing anything out!
Why Is Triptych Photography Popular?
Triptych photography has become a staple in the world of photography for a variety of reasons.
At first glance, you might think it’s all about creating unique visual design elements. While that’s certainly part of it, digging deeper reveals so much more.
Take a moment and imagine you’re a writer. You don’t just write individual words, do you? No. You craft sentences, string together paragraphs, and ultimately weave a narrative.
Why? It’s because human beings inherently crave a story. Much like a novel, a triptych delivers a narrative through the medium of photography.
Each picture in a triptych is like a chapter in a book. They are closely associated and tell a common story, making for a comprehensive experience. This is why the three images must be selected carefully, just like chapters in a story.
Triptych photography isn’t only about the art, but it’s also about how the art is arranged. Imagine you’re hanging paintings in your living room.
You wouldn’t just scatter them around randomly, now would you? You’d carefully design the layout to create an appealing look.
Similarly, triptych photographers have unique layouts to explore and experiment with to achieve their desired effect.
Triptych photography’s flexibility adds to its popularity.
There are no set rules about the scale, size, or shape of the images.
This openness provides a blank canvas for photographers, enabling them to express their creativity freely.
However, as any artist will tell you, sometimes constraints can spur creativity further. For budding photographers, maintaining some consistency in the images can be beneficial.
Beyond its storytelling and aesthetic features, triptych photography also offers lots of room to play around, including experimenting with color backgrounds and different sizes.
It’s like a child in a sandbox; the possibilities are only limited by the edges of the box and the child’s imagination.
So, why is triptych photography popular? It’s like a delicious three-course meal: satisfying, holistic, and full of surprises.
It’s a unique blend of technical skill, creativity, storytelling, and aesthetic appeal that makes triptych photography an exciting form of art.
Who Can Create Triptych Photography?
Who can create triptych photography? The exciting news is that anyone with an interest in photography and storytelling can explore this captivating art form.
Imagine yourself as an avid traveler with an eye for stunning landscapes, an urban explorer passionate about the city’s character, or a portrait photographer aiming to capture the unique stories of your subjects.
Triptych photography can open a new avenue for you to express your artistic vision and give life to your narratives in threes.
Here’s an analogy: think of your series of images in a triptych as an eloquent three-act play.
In the first act, you set the stage and introduce the characters or the theme with a strong image.
The second image or ‘act’ serves to develop your story or study your theme in depth.
The final image is your emphatic conclusion that leaves a lasting impression.
There is no hard and fast rule about what these images need to be. They can differ in scale, size, or shape or even be sections of the same photograph.
You can choose to have three related images that work together to tell a story, almost like chapters in a book.
When Was Triptych Photography First Used?
You see, the concept of ‘triptych’, originally emerged in the Middle Ages, specifically in the realm of religious art.
Think of it like your favorite trilogy of novels – three individual pieces, but each heavily interconnected and intertwined in a story.
However, the concept of triptych wasn’t introduced to photography until much later, when photographers started experimenting with this medium more creatively.
Kind of like when people started putting avocado on toast – it wasn’t the traditional use but it became a new, popular trend.
After all, photography is about narrative, just like ancient triptych paintings were about narrating biblical stories, right? And we humans, we love stories. So, it’s safe to say that this practice in photography became more prevalent as the art form evolved.
The exact timeline or the first use isn’t explicitly clear, but it’s pretty obvious that its inspiration was drawn from those conjoined three-panel paintings from long ago.
So if we were to line this up on a timeline, the original practice hails from the medieval times with religious paintings. The triptych concept then jumped ship into the field of photography as the art form developed and expanded.
Where Can Triptych Photography Be Displayed?
You may be surprised at the myriad of display options available for this distinctive art form.
From cozy home galleries, professional art exhibitions, to digital platforms, the world is your oyster when it comes to showcasing your triptych photography.
1. Home or Workspace
First and foremost, the most traditional display space is arguably in the comfort of your own home or workspace. Imagine transforming an empty wall in your living room into a personal gallery.
This is a powerful way to narrate a personal story or showcase your innovative photography skills to visitors. I like to think of it as a theatrical stage where three interconnected scenes are playing out simultaneously – in the form of your pictures.
2. Art Exhibitions
Another avenue for display could be at professional art exhibitions or photography competitions.
Given that competition photographers meticulously arrange pictures in a triptych to elicit a specific effect, this indicates the high regard for triptychs in the professional photography world.
Picture it as being at a grand concert, where each of your images is a musician, playing harmoniously to compose a beautiful symphony.
3. Digital Platforms
On top of that, digital platforms have become a popular medium for triptych display. The digital era bears numerous online platforms such as Instagram, Flickr, and personal blogs.
Take a buddy of mine, for instance. He used to incorporate triptychs into his Instagram posts, subtly linking each picture to create a thrilling narrative.
Trying to guess what he might post next became a daily trend among followers. It was kind of like we were participating in a virtual scavenger hunt.
4. Pop-Up Galleries or Local Shops
Finally, don’t forget about pop-up galleries or local coffee shops which often support local artists by displaying their work.
If your triptychs can tell a story that resonates with a particular neighborhood or cityscape, this could be another great place to present your work. Imagine your photos as silent storytellers, whispering the tales of the ambient city life to each passerby.
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer servicing the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. He specializes in portraits of individuals, couples, groups and headshots. Nate Torres is also a photography writer and content creator and educates other photographers on portrait photography, composition, editing, gear, and business. You can find his content on his personal website, social media, and YouTube Channel, as well as on blogs such as Fstoppers, Photofocus, and Imaginated. Being a former SEO consultant, Nate also teaches other photographers how to use SEO to grow their own photography business on his educational blog, Shutter SEO.