How to Select and Compose a Triptych in Lightroom

How to Select and Compose a Triptych in Lightroom

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In a recent article, I explained how to create a triptych in Lightroom. The solution covered the mechanics of setting up a triptych template in Lightroom.

In this post, I’m going to address the issue of selecting images to use in the triptych. I’ll explain some rules of composition and show how I make a selection of suitable triptych photos.

Triptych

There are some basic rules of design that will help you layout a triptych and I like best the four rules Robin Williams explained in her wonderful book: The Non-Designer’s Design Book. In it she describes the rules of Alignment, Proximity, Repetition and Contrast and these form the basics of any good design and can be applied to our triptych.

In our template design we already have alignment covered – the photos are positioned so the top and bottom of each image is on the same horizontal line and the spacing between all the images is equal.

triptych-design.jpg

We’ve also got proximity covered – the photos are positioned close together rather than scattered in different places on the printed page. The template itself is providing us with some strong design elements and that is, in part, why a triptych looks so good.

As a rule, our eyes like odd numbers of elements so a single image or a triptych often look better than a diptych – two simply is not so pleasing a number of elements to look at.

When selecting images for a triptych, you want three images that relate to each other in some way such as location, people, genre and so on.

triptych-select.jpg

I like to start by selecting a five or six images which I think will work well together and then try them out. I assemble a collection of these images so that I can work with them in the print module and not have other images in my way.

Select three of the images to use to start with. The order that the images appear in the photo strip is the order that they appear in the triptych. If the order isn’t right, drag the images into a different position in the photo strip and the images will be rearranged in the triptych too.

One way to create a safe design is to ensure that the horizons in the images are roughly level across the triptych and, when combining different images, look for images all shot at about the same zoom. This doesn’t mean you can’t mix image sizes, it just means that its sometimes easier to get them to look good if they are the same size.

triptych-direction.jpg

If you have elements that have a strong sense of direction such as the carousel animals in this triptych, place the animals so they face inwards rather than outwards from the design.

If they point outwards the viewer’s eye will follow them straight off the page. If you direct them into the triptych your viewer’s eye will stay there longer.

triptych-birdproblem.jpg

While this sequence of birds look alright the directions in which they are facing and the fact that the three images are so similar is actually a little distracting.

triptych-bird_moreinteresting.jpg

In this version, I moved the images around and replaced one with an image of two birds which adds some variety to the mix. The result looks better to my eye.

triptych-streetproblem.jpg

This triptych combining two streetscape images and a door, while all from a similar location, look unbalanced to me. The door doesn’t co-ordinate well with the street images and it is facing out of the image. In addition the door is a little too colorful for the other two images and it doesn’t enhance them. I like the arrangement better when a different image is used and one which is more in keeping with the others like this image:

triptych-street_moreinteresting.jpg

Developing an eye for what looks balanced and what doesn’t will take time. I highly recommend Robyn Williams’ book as a starting point for understanding basic design and this video may help to understand some of the principles at play.

Got some Triptych’s of your own to share with us? Do so in the Post Production are of our forum.

Read more from our Post Production category

Helen Bradley is a Lifestyle journalist who divides her time between the real and digital worlds, picking the best from both. She writes and produces video instruction for Photoshop and digital photography for magazines and online providers world wide. She has also written four books on photo crafts and blogs at Projectwoman.com.

Some Older Comments

  • Karl July 15, 2009 12:59 pm

    Actually, there is a way to print a different background color. Matt Kloskowski explains how over at LightroomKillerTips.com in this post http://www.lightroomkillertips.com/2007/video-printing-on-a-black-background/

    Every Lightroom user needs to visit this site regularly. Great tips every week.

    -=[ Karl ]=-

  • Tim A. July 13, 2009 03:33 pm

    Timothy,

    Go all the way down to the "Print Job" section and change the "Print to:" to be jpg :)

  • Timothy Wynn July 11, 2009 05:35 pm

    How do you export the Triptychs as jpeg? Can you?

  • Tim Norris July 7, 2009 07:15 pm

    Nice article, I have only had a go at doing this a few times - here's one from a few years ago.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tim_norris/315179033/

    It really is a good way of making some simple or even bad photos into something much more interesting.

  • Greg Aleknevicus July 7, 2009 01:37 pm

    Very nice article. Particularly helpful is the inclusion of "what not to do".

  • Andreas Danielssona July 7, 2009 04:53 am

    Very good. I like more ot these tips. Great article.

  • TC July 7, 2009 03:25 am

    Good article - may my first one just a few hours before reading it! Hadn't through about using the Identity Plate.

    Also good advice on how to compose - read similar advice in a book on page layout and used it when I did mine.

    You can see mine here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tcdk/3695005358/

  • Peters48 July 7, 2009 02:47 am

    Triptychs are nice especially if you really love white backgrounds. Unfortunately, that's all Lightroom let you have. It sure would be nice if the Print module let us choose backgrounds by color or image with options for opacity & gradient.