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Photography

Diptychs and Triptychs: Playing with Photo Stories and Unexpected Combinations

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This post is part of a series called Photo Editing and Visual Sequencing.
Review, Rough Cut, Pick: Editing a Portrait Shoot in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom
How to Edit, Sequence and Assemble Pictures for a Photo Book
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What You'll Be Creating

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Diptychs and Triptychs: Origins

Diptych and triptych come from the Greek meaning two (dip) or three (trip) fold (tych). This usually referred to a work of art that was divided into sections and hinged together but has come to be something that is widely used in photography and the art world. Many modern artists have created pieces that were designed to be displayed together and the diptych and triptych have become very popular story telling devices.

Why Use a Diptych or Triptych?

Using several pictures is a great way of telling a story. You could have two or three images from the same shoot to show a similar idea:

triptych of urban decay
A triptych of urban decay

This tripdych shows several aspects of an abandoned building and also gives an idea of its setting in quite a beautiful location.

You can also use pictures that are completely at odds with each other to show contrasting ideas:

wedding diptych
A diptych to demonstrate contrasting ideas working well together

This diptych shows a traditional church wedding on the left and then the picture on the right tells us that there were sweet, quirky touches that weren’t always obvious.

These montages help to expand on details and show different views than one picture on its own might.

There are so many possibilities with montages of images, but sets of two and three seem to be particularly compelling. As well as showing related or contrasting ideas they can be used to suggest movement or the passage of time:

puffin diptych
The puffin looked for food in the sea, flew in and landed with sand eels

Planning a Montage Composition

If you go out and photograph with the intention of creating a montage you'll have an easier time of creating combinations when you get home. As well as taking wider photographs of your subject, get in close too or take it from unusual angles; this will all help towards your ‘story-telling’ when you put your composite together.

A composite doesn’t even have to be the same subject, you could try shooting lots of different items that have some common theme; their colour for example:

A diptych with completely disparate subjects but displaying similar colours

Here we have completely disparate subjects, but this works because of their similar colours.

Montages also work as a great compositional tool with shots that you think you’ve ‘messed up’. Imagine you’re shooting a sporting event or something where there are a lot of fast moving people. You may end up with some blurred shots that might look like bad pictures on their own, but put them in a diptych or triptych and they suddenly become part of the story, showing the movement.

Conclusion

As well as being great story-telling devices, diptychs, triptychs and polytychs (multi-image composites) are visually pleasing and help make use of photos that may not work on their own.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to these composites so play, have fun and put together whatever feels right. Think complimentary images, think completely disparate images! Try colour combinations, pictures with a running theme, things that show movement or photos that show the passage of time. The possibilities are endless!




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