Landscape Compositional Tool #2: 

Geometric Shapes

Although not immediately recognizable, geometric shapes properly aligned in landscape compositions lead to interesting photographs that keep a viewer’s attention. Geometric shapes as a compositional tool takes some training to recognize when on location, but once you can start visualizing the shapes and how they work together in a scene, it can lead to powerful photographs! This landscape photography compositional tool is a must have for your landscape photography compositional toolbox.

As an example, in the photos of Grand Prismatic Spring, the brown section forms a triangle pointing towards the center of the pool. The orange sections on either side of the brown form triangles that point to the same area, and the shape of the sky kind of forms a triangle pointing toward the blue-green center of the pool. The main subject of this image is the pool itself and the geometric shapes help to lead the viewer’s eye toward the main subject.

May 30, 2021

It’s important to note that the geometric shapes are not always exact shapes, but rather geometric forms that resemble shapes. The dunes on the left side of the photo below from Iceland don’t fit a specific geometric shape, but rather a random four-sided polygon. Even though it’s not an exact shape, it still works to push the eye toward the right side of the image. From there, the small dune section in the bottom right-hand corner pointing upwards and the triangle shape of the ocean provide geometric shapes to guide the eye toward the mountains. The natural V shape in the mountains leads the sky to form a triangle shape pointing at the mountains. Even though some of the shapes are not clean shapes, they still work to guide the eye and provide interest to the photograph.

May 3, 2021

As another example from the Lake Tahoe area, the main subject of the photo are the two tall trees on the left side of the photograph. The sloping of the tree line on both the left and right sides of the image form triangles with the snow-covered river banks, which point toward the main subject. The middle island of snow-covered rocks forms a rectangle type shape that points toward the trees, and the space between the middle island and the left side river bank also forms a triangle pointing toward the trees. All these elements work together to draw the viewer’s eye toward the focus point of the image.

Untitled photo

Geometric shapes are a powerful compositional tool for a photographer’s toolbox. While it may take some training to see these shapes on location, they can lead to really interesting compositions. Cropping can also be used in post-production to take advantage of geometric shapes in a photograph. To learn more about other compositional tools in a landscape photographer’s toolbox, check out this article.

How have you used geometric shapes in your photographs? Let me know in the comments below!

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