Focus on Composition

When it comes to wildlife photography, there are two main elements. Composition and the technical stuff.

The more basic side is the compositional side & then you get the more complicated part and this is as many refer to it is, the "technical stuff".

Too many times people get caught up in the mess & fuss of getting the technical stuff right first.

When you are struggling with any challenge that is in front of you, people say you should go back to the basics.

If you are really struggling with this so called "technical stuff", I encourage you to practice and master the compositional side first, it will already make a world of difference in your photography.

When I purchased my first camera, I was full of excitement, that was until I had opened the box, unpacked it, charged the battery and put it together. It was at that moment I realized that I had no idea how to use this camera that I had just spent a small fortune on. Honestly, I felt quite deflated, but I made the choice to get stuck in. At first I was very confused, but I did plenty of research and the main component that came up was composition. I could have the perfect settings in a situation, but without solid composition, the image loses impact.

Having said all of the above, there are no rules when it comes to composition, only guidelines.

What is Composition?

  • Composition is the placement of your subject in a frame.
  • Composition consists of everything you will see in any given frame - a subject & its environment.
  • The subject should be the center of attention. When I say this it does not mean your subject must be placed in the middle of the frame.
  • The environment should bring the attention to the subject.
  • The rule of thirds is a practice in which the scene is divided into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and the most interesting feature of the subject is placed where a horizontal and vertical division meet.
  • Wherever the subject is placed, put other elements in the photo to ensure it is balanced.
  • Lines can be used to direct the eye through the picture, as long as they ultimately bring the eye to the subject

This might sound confusing at first but have a quick look at this next image.

Focus on Composition

Practice good composition on subjects that sit still. Sleeping pets, kids etc. From today onwards, every single time you pick up your camera, have this grid in mind and as an imaginary layer, place it in the frame you are looking at and this will help you compose your images a bit better. The more you practice this the more natural composition will become and the better your images will start to look. It helps to practice composition at home and around the garden, why do I say this? Because in the heat of the moment on safari, there is a lot that goes through ones mind. Being at home with the purpose of the photograph being to grasp the concept of composition, the subject itself doesn't actually matter.

Have a look at this next image.

Focus on Composition

Notice the lion is on the right of the frame, yes? This is an example of bad composition. It is looking straight out of the frame. To me, this image doesn't tell a story.

Below is an image from the same sighting of what good composition looks like. Look at the difference it makes to the image, it shows off his power, his posture and gives him space to look into.

Focus on Composition

In saying this, do not always rely on the crop tool for this! Too often people say I will just crop it, change the white balance or exposure in post processing. If this is your mind set, change it!

Do as much as possible while out in the field because not only will it be less work for you later but you will not lose image quality by cropping the image.

Remember to keep that imaginary grid in mind next time.

Until next time,


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