Composition Can Make or Break A Wildlife Photograph
One attribute of a good photograph is good composition. I would rank this as the second most important determinant of a quality photograph, after sharpness. However, that is a combined second place along with good use of light and colour. However, here we will focus on how to compose a photograph.
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is an old and well known composition rule. It states that if you divide your photograph into three parts horizontally and three parts vertically, with imaginary lines, you should place your subject on one of the four points where these lines intercept. I have found that the two intersection points in the bottom half of the picture works best for wildlife photography as you will not have too much (possibly out-of-focus) foreground to contend with.
Another “rule” (the name of which I never bothered to remember) deals with dividing your photograph into two parts. Draw an imaginary line through your photograph dividing it into two unequally sized parts. The smaller part should have the same ratio to the bigger part as the bigger part has to the whole photograph. Also, the smaller part should be in the foreground (or bottom half) of the picture. The line that accomplishes this split is a very good place to put your subject in the photograph.
Now you are most probably shaking your head and muttering nasty things as you read this. Why? Because this is almost impossible to remember, apply and get 100% correct while out in the bush. I must be on something…
Yes to some extent it is hard to apply this. However, these are merely “rules”, and you know what to do with those right? Break them!
If you want to use one of the above “rules”, I suggest keeping them in mind while in the field and then while you are editing your photos on your PC (or Mac) you can apply these rules by cropping the image. This is something I employ with great success myself.
Breaking the Rules
Now, this is the fun part. I have got the “rules” out of the way. Now let’s see what other options you have…
Sometimes it is best to leave your subject smack in the middle of the photograph. This works well with really impressive shots that show your (wildly interesting) subject in great detail, with impeccable sharpness, perfect lighting and exciting colour.
Watch out! I am not telling you to do this every time you pick up your camera. I am merely saying that if you have a very high quality shot you have the luxury of doing this.
Don’t believe me? Just pick up a magazine or the latest book of one of the leading professional wildlife photographers and see how often they do this. You can also page through a wildlife photography calendar. You will soon see that professional photographers do not always follow composition “rules”.
You can also place your subject off centre to one side of the photograph if you want to avoid being too boring. It is pointless having a long lens to get extra close and not filling at least the height of the frame with your subject. This is what you got that expensive long lens for, so do not hesitate to use it.
All I want to say here is after noting what I said above, let your imagination run wild. Before releasing your shutter it is always good to think of composition. From there the inclusion of composition in “ISACA”. Just remember, you can also nicely compose your picture at the image editing stage…
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