April 09, 2017  •  Leave a Comment


The best things come in threes.

That sounds like a Klee Shay rule, but since rules are for authoritarian types like nuns and librarians, we'll call it a theme instead. Or a marketing ploy (like batteries sold in 3-packs when you need 2 or 4).

Or better, a plot device, adapted for our screen play. We'll call it Photograthree.

So is it true that the best things come in threes? Let's start a list...

  • ring circus
  • little pigs
  • stooges
  • french hens
  • sheets to the wind
  • piece suits
  • musketeers
  • penny opera
  • dog night
  • peat
  • blind mice
  • feet in a yard
  • d
  • strikes and yer out
  • alarm fire
  • dollar bill
  • cheers
  • squares a day
  • wisemen
  • point turn
  • legged race
  • chords and the truth
  • 's a crowd
  • some
  • ulysses everett mcgill, delmar o'donnell, pete hogwallop (extra points if you get the reference)

Sure enough, the evidence points to a certain quality inherent in groups of three. Triangles are pretty tough to break, for example, as evidenced by Bucky's geodesic dome. The USA has three branches of government to keep it upright through good times and weird. Eve had three faces, which proves there's an exception to everything.

Two wrongs may make a right but two rights can't make a wrong. Nevertheless, three rights make a left. Go figure.

We can put the power of three to work in our photographs in a variety of ways, for example number of subjects, shapes or elements, colors, entendres, or even framing (e.g. a triptych).

We may pick three primary colors to work together; they can be any three colors. Primary doesn't necessarily mean RGB or RBY. Pick your own.

Select three shapes - a circle, triangle, and a square. How do they relate to each other when pushed around a blank canvas?

Two girls and a guy. Or vice versa. Two girls and a motorcyle. Two kids and a dog. A dog, a chicken, and a mad farmer. A cat, a Freudian psychiatrist, and Kevin Bacon. Bacon, bacon, and more bacon. This isn't rocket science, unless you're trying to get the third stage to separate at just the right moment.

Three levels of meaning, or a triple-entendre joke might take a little more thought and planning to get into visual form, but the payoff could be the most fun you'll have all week. It may echo. More than once.

Break a photo up into three pieces, then put them back together in a different way. Do a triple exposure, or blend three exposures to extend dynamic range. Composite three images into one.

If you're still skeptical about the power of three, consider this. The exposure triangle has three legs - aperture, shutter speed, and ISO sensitivity. Focusing has three modes - single, continuous, and manual. Metering can measure from full frame, center weight, or spot. If there is a "most important" number in photography, three has a strong claim to the title.

That's for starters. Put your three-sided pyramid hats on and come up with some triple-scoop photos. You're on third, it's the bottom of the ninth with two outs, the pitcher throws in the zone and the batter swings. It's your move.

TRIPLE THREAT will run for two weeks, from April 10 through April 23. I know, three weeks would make more sense, which is why we'll stick with two.

Extra credit: If you'd like to see a first-class street legend put the theme of threes to the test in his own work, here's a terrific YouTube viddy:



  • If you'd like to share in these workouts with other people (always a great idea), you're invited to join my Facebook Photo Assignment group where you can post images and comments, learn from others, and help other budding photographers learn our amazing craft. 
  • If you're interested in bettering your Photoshop and Lightroom skills, I have an aptly named second Facebook group called Circle of Confusion. You're invited to join it, as well, but you'll need to be a Photo Assignment member first. Join both and you're good to go.
  • Need some hands-on training? I teach several classes during the year through Sawtooth Photo Pros. Current class schedule is available here: SPP-CLASSES



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