The number 3 is one of the major standards for composition and design elements. In many photographs, 3 similar items will form a triangle when connecting the objects together and this is used to keep the viewer’s gaze moving around the photograph as we go from one item to the next.
In fact there is even a special name for a 3-image photograph or 3-panel painting which is a triptych. But what is when you want to include 4 items as in my 4-image frame below?
The above image framed would be about 5 feet tall and 20 in wide.
On the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend when I took the images for the article The Many Colours of Fall I also took the images used to form the picture frame above.
After I took the image of the 2 people silhouetted against the bright fall foliage I turned sideways and saw this old dead tree, which formed a transition between the green pine trees and the vibrant foliage on the rock face. I did not have any special idea at that time. I only knew that the textures of the dead tree and colours looked great and I decided to take 4 images as I moved from the pond reflection upwards.
This is a close-up section of the 2nd from the top panel to show the great detail in the dead tree.
Each image I composed was a stand-alone image as I figured that one of these would probably turn out to be a real keeper.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that combined together, they just might form an interesting multi-image photograph. When combined together in a vertical pattern set the trees do not line up in a standard tree pattern.
The location is more than 100 miles away and with fall foliage just one day can make a great difference in the landscape, let alone the lighting conditions. There was just no way to go back and re-shoot.
There is some advantage in not having perfect alignment as it does compel the viewer to spend a little longer on each image as they move up or down. It also, for a brief moment, causes the viewer to wonder if each image is from the same spot.
This may be a good thing, as they might spend a little longer time viewing and thereby pondering what meaning you are trying to convey, if any.
But I would like the option to see how other alignments work, without having, in my case, to crop the format.
I did try a 4 Horizontal arrangement as shown below.
Then a 3 image horizontal arrangement.
With the set of images I prefer the 3 set better for the horizontal version.
I will print and mat the 4 vertical set and see how this looks before I get a frame made. Sometimes the only way to really understand a photograph is to print and then give yourself time to contemplate the result.