How to shoot a photography triptych

A triptych is a group of 3 separate images displayed together. But crucially, the 3 images are more than just 3 photographs set out next to each other - they work together to create something more than that. Gestalt is the principle that "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts" - and that's what you're aiming for with a triptych.

There are a few approaches to creating a triptych. Some you can try with images you already have (like the first one below - splitting a single image). For others you'll need to go out and shoot with the triptych in mind.

Split a single image

I think this is the hardest triptych to achieve, although done well they are very eyecatching. You need to have an original image that will create 3 panels that stand alone, as well as creating a Gestalt grouping. You don't have to split it in exact thirds - you can experiment with duplication and overlap.

blossom triptych.jpg

 

Show a progression

This needs to be more than a simple "set of visual instructions" sequence that you might see in a how-to blog post. There needs to be a message behind the set, a reason for creating it. Ideas of growth or decay, or the passing of the seasons lend themselves to this format.

 

Same subject

Taking the same subject (a specific dahlia), or the same type of subject (flowers), and creating 3 shots that hang together is another option. You need to make some decisions about how you create cohesion between the shots. If you are using different subjects (eg. different flowers) it could be simply using exactly the same lighting, kit and settings. If you are using exactly the same subject (eg. one specific dahlia), you have more freedom to try different angles, focal lengths, lighting and settings because the subject itself will create the thread running through the 3 images. 

dahlia triptych.jpg

 

Same editing treatment

You can unite subjects by giving them the same edit, especially if it is a strong one. 

garden triptych 2.jpg

Always remember - there needs to be a reason for displaying the 3 shots together, and they need to work better together than they do apart. (Often the simple fact of having a repeating theme between the images is enough to give a satisfying aesthetic experience to the viewer.)

 

Displaying your triptych

You can use a collage programme like PicCollage or Canva to create a digital triptych, or you can print out and display your images on paper. If you are printing, you can print them on separate sheets, but hang them close enough together to make it clear they are a single unit rather than three separate shots.


emma headshot 800.jpg

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