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Threefold vision - the stories told through photographic triptychs...

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 a multitude of wonderful photographs surrounds you. 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 that 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!

2. Storytelling

The second tip when creating triptych photography is to tell a story. This may seem cliche, but you should try to tell a story or visual narrative across the panels.

Each panel should contribute to the overall story while standing on its own. For example, having your subject complete an action and photographing them at each stage of the process:

3. Composition

The third tip when creating a triptych is composition.

Having good composition is crucial in every niche of photography. You'll want to pay attention to not only the composition of each panel but also how they all work together. 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 technique for creating triptychs because they help 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 maintaining consistent color harmony throughout the triptych because consistent color tones 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 a visual flow.

I recommend arranging the panels so 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 it ties into having your panels in chronological or logical order in the overall narrative. You'll want to arrange the panels accordingly to 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 of their courtship, and the right of their wedding day. Here's an example showing the order in how a sunflower blooms:

9. Size and proportion

The ninth tip when creating a triptych is to consider the size and proportion of each panel.

It's ideal to keep the size and proportion of each panel consistent for a balanced presentation. For example, if you had one panel that was cropped a certain way to be a lot larger than the other two, 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 leaves 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 the 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 have consistency in your lighting.

Having a consistent lighting style across your panels is generally good unless you are going for a creative storytelling aspect. However, similar to having a consistent color tone, you should have consistent lighting 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!

Triptych photography has become a staple in the world of photography for various 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 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? Human beings inherently crave stories. 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 plenty of room for experimentation, including experimenting with color backgrounds and different sizes.

It's like a child in a sandbox; the possibilities are only limited by the box's edges 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.

Triptych photography is an exciting form of art because it combines a unique blend of technical skill, creativity, storytelling, and aesthetic appeal.

Who can create triptych photography?

Who can create triptych photography? The exciting news is that anyone interested 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 is 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.

It's 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, which were about narrating biblical stories, right? And we humans 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.

If we were to line this up on a timeline, the original practice dates back to medieval times, when triptychs were used for religious paintings. The concept then jumped ship into 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 and 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

In addition, digital platforms have become popular for triptych displays. The digital era includes numerous online platforms, such as Instagram, Flickr, and personal blogs.

Take a buddy of mine, for instance. He incorporated 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.

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