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Three Wall or Two Wall Composition

Published: 01/10/2008
By: larry

In the process of working on a chapter of my e-book covering interior composition I came across a couple of shots of a little condo we sold last year that nicely illustrates the pros and cons of a three wall shot compared to a two wall shot.

The upper shot on the right, is effectively a two wall shot and the bottom photo is a three wall shot of the same room. The two wall shot was one of the photos we used to market this home. I liked it the best of the 4 or 5 shots I took of this little living room and the stager, the agent, and the home owner all agreed with my choice. At the time I didn't think about why we all liked the two wall shot the best.

After seeing a discussion in the PFRE flickr group on this subject I realized why the two wall shot feels more spacious and is visually more pleasing.

  • The two wall shot does not show the whole room or give the viewer a reference for the size of the whole room so the size of the room is ambiguous.
  • On the other hand the lower, three wall shot gives the viewer an absolute reference for the size of the room by showing all three walls. In this three wall shot the room feels smaller.
  • Because ceiling line of the far wall is not straight the composition feels visually uncomfortable.
  • Additionally, since I used a 16mm lens for this shot the three wall version has an exaggerated perspective that gives the image even more of an uncomfortable feel.

As Jeremy Esland explains in the PFRE flickr discussion on this subject, "as photographers, as long as we are aware of the potential effects, we are, of course, free to ignore them, compensate for them or even make use of them."

So you can use a three wall shot to illustrate how large a room is but if you are not careful there can be some down sides of showing three walls.

7 comments on “Three Wall or Two Wall Composition”

  1. a real estate shot, I preferred the 3 wall, as it showed "connection"; which is what buyers are often looking rooms connect.
    However I agree that the 2 wall does leave room for the imagination, and if it get the phone/email working, it's done its job.
    As pp's, we seem to be the only ones that see that bent verticals etc!!
    And if the vendor and agent prefer these, I always give them the choice of the 2 and 3 wall shots.
    Perhaps in the lower photo , if the RH wall and ceiling was cropped out, it would still give that connection anyhow...and we'd be back to the 2 wall rule!!??...:-)

  2. I have noticed this uncomfortable feel as well in my three wall shots at some angle other than straight on to the back wall. (And two-wall shots because they all are at an angle).

    When shooting straight - at a right angles - I achieve a more pleasant feel, show the relative size and have less left over barrell distortion after correction.

    I wish you had one more three-wall shot straight on to allow for a level floor and ceiling line for the comparison.

  3. The two wall shot is more pleasing to the eye because there is only one true vanishing point.

    The three wall shot has multiple vanishing points which confuses the eye because you don't know which one to focus or concentrate on. If you were to crop out the wall on the right, the image would be less distracting.

  4. I will be so happy when my photo are consistantly this nice and I can ponder the dilemma of shooting two wall or three. Great Job! Great Website!

  5. I really appreciate having a pro take the time to explain two-wall vs three-wall shots. I agree that professional looking pictures make a big difference in marketing a home. I am always looking for ways to improve what I do. I am by no means a professional. I just want to take my photography up a notch above where I am now, and where most real estate agents live forever. Great site! Thanks.

  6. While I also prefer 2 walls, (thanks to the info on this site and the flicker group), sometimes a 3 wall shot is a nescessity. There are certain rooms in certain houses that we must include 3 walls. Don't be afraid of 3 wall shots if you have something to show viewers.

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