When we think about rules of composition and posing in Sexy Women Photography, there are a few things that are always talked about. You’ll hear about the “rule of thirds” for composition, while “S” Curves and “C” Curves tend to dominate discussion on model posing. Being informed about those topics are very important in order to take good images.
Very rarely, however, do you hear anyone talk about the power of the triangle in photo composition. Fashion photographer Lara Jade is the only photographer that I am aware of that speaks of the importance of the triangle in posing her models. Despite being overlooked by those who write about sexy women photography, the triangle is a powerful tool used by some of the top names in the genre. I recommend that you look at the work of Jarmo Pohijaniemi , Josh Ryan , and Dean Capture , to get an idea how veteran sexy women shooters make use of the concepts that I’m going to explain.
First: What’s So Good About a Triangle?
You’ve probably heard about the importance of diagonal lines in photo composition. Diagonal lines tend to add dynamism to a photo – without diagonals, a photo tends to be static. Diagonals can also function as a leading line, pulling a viewer into a photo, even taking the viewer to the important part or parts of a photo. Well, a triangle will add at least one diagonal line to the photo, and, depending upon the placement of the triangle within the image, two or even three diagonal lines. Furthermore, triangles tend to create relationships within the image, whether it is between parts of the model’s body, or between the model’s body and something else in the image, or between the model and the edges of the frame. Diagonals, leading lines, and tying parts of an image together, all combine to make the triangle a powerful compositional tool. With this in mind, let’s break down a few photos…
Triangles Formed by Compositional Elements
Triangles can not only be actively created by model poses but also exist within a frame. If you pay attention to elements on your set, be it a window, or a hotel room, etc., you might find that you can create triangles along the edges of the frame depending upon how you frame up the shot. Look carefully at Images 1 and 2. You will notice that the window frames were used to create triangles at the edges of the frame. You should note that in Image 1, one side of the triangle acts as a leading line right to the model’s face. In Image 2, there are triangles on all four sides of the frame. These were not accidental occurrences. In each shot, the image was framed to include the triangles as compositional elements.
Images 3 and 4 are more glamour oriented shots, but if you look at the edges of the frame, you can see that a number of triangles are formed. And yes, that small bit of ceiling in Image 3, and that small bit of the picture frame in Image 4 were deliberate inclusions in the framing of the image. It is also important to note that in both instances, that the triangles are formed by using “Dutch angles,” that is, tilting the camera to something in between a portrait and landscape orientation.
Triangles Formed by the Model’s Limbs
In Images 1-4, the dominant triangles were formed from compositional elements in the frame other than the model. But you can also pose your model in such a way that she can create triangles with her figure. In Images 5, 6, and 7, the model’s arms are bent at the elbow to create triangles. In Image 8, the model’s legs combine with the barstool to form two triangles, while her right arm combines with her leg and torso to form another triangle. Finally, her left arm, together with her body form two sides to another triangle, while the hair that she holds forms the third side.
In Images 9 and 10, not only are the model’s limbs positioned to create triangles, her entire body is formed into a rough shape of a triangle.
In Images 11 and 12, the model’s limbs are used to create triangles, but an additional triangle is formed by using the edge of the frame as one of the sides. You should also note that in Image 12, while the line formed by the model’s torso and head does not go all the way to the edge, her head is close enough to edge to “imply” the rest of the line.
I mentioned above that sometimes the positioning of the model will “imply” the continuation of a line to complete a triangle. Image 13 is another example. The edge of the frame and the model’s leg form two sides, while the model’s arm suggests a line ending in the corner to complete the third side. The triangle isn’t really physically present in the image, but the human mind is sufficiently imaginative that given two clear sides to a triangle, it can “imply” the third side. Images 14 and 15 are also examples. In Image 14, moving counter clockwise around the image, one can mentally complete a triangle using two sides formed by her leg and arm, then another triangle by mentally drawing a line between the toes of each foot, and a third triangle by mentally drawing a line between the toes of the bottom leg to her butt. In Image 15, because her arm is bent at the elbow, mentally drawing a line between her hand and her face creates a triangle, while a second one can be drawn by using her legs and mentally drawing a line between her butt and her toes.
In Images 16 and 17, the model’s body creates such a strong diagonal across the frame that, together with two edges of the frame, they create a triangle. In addition, in Image 17, the diagonal of the model’s body happens to run from corner to corner, so that the frame is actually bisected into two triangles, with the model’s body forming the longest side and the edges forming the other two sides of both triangles.
Closely related to this idea of “implied triangles” is the artistic concept of “negative space.” In art, negative space is generally referred to as the space around and between subjects to an image, and is particularly noticeable when it forms an interesting shape. Images 18, 19 and 20 illustrate this. In Image 18, the model’s arms serve to create triangles, very similar to the way they did back in Images 5-7. But, look closely. Because of the lighting, there is a shadow area between and below her breasts. Also notice that the line created by the highlight on her right leg creates a line that cuts off the lower left corner of the image. Her left arm does the same to the upper right corner, and an implied line between the model’s right hand and the back of her head cuts off the upper left corner of the image. So, the parts of the image that aren’t the subject actually form three triangular shapes. In Image 19, the model’s thighs serve to cut off space at the top left and top right of the image in the shape of a triangle, while her forearm does the same to the bottom left corner. And in Image 20, the top left and top right side of the image are cut into triangular shapes by lines suggested by the model’s body.
While I’ve chosen specific images to illustrate the various ways in which triangles become part of the composition of the image, the astute reader should note that very often the model’s limbs form triangles, while at the same time they suggest a triangle through negative space. Or one can use “Dutch angles” to create triangular shapes in the model’s environment while at the same time her pose either expressly or impliedly suggests other triangular shapes.
In Image 21, the model’s arms and legs have created triangles, while the image was carefully framed to include a sliver of a picture frame at the top right, while at the same time, the lines created by the floor tiles were framed to create triangles on the lower left side. In Image 22, the model’s arms and legs are bent to form triangles, but if you look closely you will see that the table she is sitting on creates a negative space triangle on the lower right side of the image, while her leg and arm cut off the top left corner of the image to form another negative space triangle.
Image 23 is a bit more subtle, but her arms and hair form a triangular shape on the model’s upper body, while the line of her hair creates a negative space triangle with the top left corner, and her legs do the same to the bottom left corner. On top of that, the edge of the window seat also creates a triangle at the lower part of the image, as does the intersection of the model’s legs with the edge of the frame.
Poses that incorporate triangular shapes are visually powerful. Moreover triangular shapes are very easy for the model to perform, since a bent arm or leg just about always forms two sides to a triangle. Models can make triangular shapes from standing, sitting and lying positions. But, it’s important to recognize that the power of the triangle is evident both in the posing of the model and in the overall composition of the image.
It’s up to you, the photographer, to make a frame in which the pose of the model rests. If you keep in mind the power of the triangle, especially when you choose the edges of your frame, you’ll be able to enhance the pose of the model and create a more powerful, visually interesting image. While this is more obvious in the artistic nude genre, the example images show that this can also be done with more glamour style imagery as well. Take a look at images on the web, and note which ones that you are drawn to – which images you think are “the better” ones. Chances are, if you look closely at them, you’ll start to see triangles. Look at your own images from a shoot that you’ve done recently. Again, chances are that the better images from the shoot will have created triangles in at least one of these ways.
After becoming more aware of the presence of triangles in your better images, you will start to incorporate the triangles by design. In other words, you will gradually transition from being someone who produces strong images by accident to someone who can create strong images on purpose. You’ll begin to consciously look for opportunities to incorporate the triangle through the posing of your model and by using the relationship of the model to the edges of the frame.
Finally, let me close by saying that it is not necessary to incorporate triangles into every image. “S” and “C” curves are powerful visual forms in their own right. And, especially for glamour images, but true for all genres of sexy women photography as well, perhaps the most important element of the image is the expressiveness of the model. But the triangle is used, either consciously or subconsciously, by many top photographers to good effect.
My purpose here is to call your attention to a powerful visual concept that is known to artistic composition generally, but which doesn’t seem to get talked about nearly as much as it merits in sexy women photography. Hopefully you can take the “power of the triangle” and use it to take your photos to the next level.
Thanks for reading! And, as always, if the article sparks any questions, hit me up in the comments.