Wildlife Photography – Composition

Filed in Photography Tips, Workshops on Apr.23, 2018

Simplicity is often the key to composing a successful photograph, where a well composed image should never look cluttered, and the main focal point or subject should be obvious. When composing an image decide which parts of the scene are most important to you and try hard to exclude any elements that are not, or don’t have a role or detract from the composition you are trying to achieve.

Shooting from a low angle can instantly simplify your composition by throwing all but the main subject out of focus, particularly effective when photographing many species of animals and birds. Composition is a key element to wildlife photography and is one subject many clients learn from me when they attend my one to ones, workshops.  I am very strong on composition and feel it can make an image.

When photographing wildlife it is often necessary to make compositional decisions very quickly as in most parts wildlife won’t stay still longer enough to let you compose the image as you’d like.  With good fieldcraft, knowledge of the subject, respecting and listening to nature these key elements may afford you just that bit longer to compose your subject as you wish.

Whichever way the subject is looking or facing implies interest and possible movement in that direction, with the viewers eye being naturally drawn that way. Therefore it is important to leave extra space in that direction, whether it be portrait or landscape format. The best way of achieving this effect is to employ the ‘Rule Of Thirds’. Arranging the elements in your picture to form the strongest possible composition by imagining a grid of lines drawn through the viewfinder to split the frame into nine equal parts, the subject should be placed roughly where the two lines cross.

These intersections are known as ‘Power Points” they are the areas within the rectangular frame where the eye tends to fall naturally and can lead to a successful composition with more room in front of the subject than behind and as I like to put it, giving the subject the space to  ‘Breathe’.

There are no hard and fast rules on composition, check the background to make sure that it is interesting but not fighting for attention from the main subject, small distractions make a big difference to photographs.  Composition can make or break an image for me and that’s why its one of the most important elements to wildlife photography there is, when and where possible try to get level with your subjects ‘eye’ to obtain an image that looks like you are at their level, giving a more personal view of the subject you are trying to photograph.

Look for the best and cleanest backgrounds, the best angle in which to capture your chosen subject. This may mean shifting your shooting position slightly but with active birds and animals you can simply wait for the subject to move, the light should be behind you or to the side, avoid direct sunshine, the best times are dawn and dusk all adding to a beautiful image with very strong composition.

The rule of thirds is not something you have to always follow. it simply suggests that an image should be imagined as divided into a grid of nine equal parts, using two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines.  You then place the important compositional elements along these lines or intersecting points. Within my own work I love to capture the subjects character, emotion through strong, simple and powerful composition.  Whether that be small in the frame or a close up image, wide-angle or long lens having space through good composition within your photograph will transform the end result.

Try not to over complicate your photography when you’re composing your images, its easy sometimes to just be enjoying what you are witnessing in front of you instead of thinking like a photographer.  This can result in messy shots, full of distractions, with no focal point which forces the viewer’s eye to wonder around the image with no real sense of where to settle.  By just taking time to consider your subject and its environment you’ll find your photography will improve and the term “less is more” will become very apparent to you.

Enjoy your wildlife photography first and foremost, being at one with wildlife is the most rewarding part, even before any photograph has been taken.  Apply some of these simple elements to your photography and your images will really improve, never put any pressure on yourself and the rest as I say will fall into place. If you would like any further help or advice then please send me an email here many thanks.


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