Wildlife Photography Composition

Can you imagine the excitement of being on an Indian safari and witnessing Bengal tigers stalking their prey, or visiting the Himalayas to see a family of elusive snow leopards padding silently across a mountain ridge? Not only will you get to share this experience while on one of my tours, but when you are using your own camera I’ll make helpful suggestions so you come away with incredible images to remind you of this thrilling adventure. I’ll take you to the best viewing spots at the right time of day to capture photos filled with vibrant light, dramatic shadows, and breathtaking action. The only thing you have to do is capture the image with the appropriate type of composition for wildlife. Here are a couple of useful tips to keep in mind when photographing animals in their natural environment.

Rule of thirds

It produces a dynamic image by moving the subject away from the centre of the frame. In the rule of thirds you deliberately make the image slightly unbalanced by placing the subject on one side of the frame. Placing the subject on the four intersecting point. 

A great example how to place your subject with that rule.

Rule of Thirds

I just try to draw that for you to give an idea

Most cameras have a rule of thirds pattern built into their viewfinder or screen. It’s a grid composed of two vertical lines and two horizontal lines. They are evenly spaced from each other and using the rule of thirds means you move your camera until your main subject is at one of these vertical or horizontal lines. The points at which the lines intersect are regarded as the best positions, so if you can place the head of the animal there, you make an even stronger image. If you can zoom close enough to fill the frame with the top half of the animal, then position their eyes at one of the highest intersecting points on the grid for a better photo.

When taking photos of animals using the rule of thirds, if their head is facing to the right of the frame, align them with the left side of the vertical grid. If they are facing to your left, use the right side of the grid instead. The reason why you leave space between the direction they are facing and the edge of the photo is that it reproduces the concept of the animal looking into the distance. If they are too close to the edge of the image, it looks as if they are facing a wall. When an animal is looking straight towards the camera, it doesn’t matter which side of the vertical lines they are placed.

Distracting background 

You need at all time to pay attention to the background, obviously it can be difficult sometimes and more when you are on safari and other cars are there but if you think that the background is not suitable for the picture you want to achieve, you can ask your driver to move to an appropriate spot depending of the situation you are in. It can be very difficult when photographing birds.

Mini kingfisher with clean background
Bee -Eater with a clean background
Remembering the past

However a distracting background can be useful too, like on that image where another elephant appear and might giving the idea that the principal subject is remembering the past when you use the right settings on your camera.

Shoot at eye level

I think it one of the most important rule for me anyway. The camera is positioned at eye level of your subject, this give to your viewer the impression that they are right there in the front of the subject, that they live the moment.

Here I am lying down, arctic fox are very small as he was coming towards me as I was waiting, I just had to get ready, of course I didn't expect him to come that close.
And you get that perspective that you are in front of it.

Here I am lying down, arctic fox are very small as he was coming towards me, I was just waiting, I just had to get ready, of course I didn’t expect him to come that close. And you get that perspective that you are in front of it.

Focus always the eye of your subject

Always keep your focus point on the eye of your subject as it is the first thing a viewer will look at, if the yes is not on focus then the image is not going to be great however sometimes you just can’t so the best for you here to focus just around the eye and if the head is sharp the eye will be too.

On this picture because his eye was dark, I focus around it, on a white spot.

On this picture because his eye was dark, I just focus around it.

They are more rules than you think and you can play with it, mixing them, like on this picture, using the snow leopard path for my composition.You can also break the rules, don’t be afraid to experiment your ideas.

Like here, using the snow leopard path for my composition.

Like here, using the snow leopard path for my composition.

Respecting your subject

Another rule that I practice is by respecting the welfare of your subject, you are not there to get the best picture, it is not worth it, keep your distance and if you see your subject being agitated by your presence just back off, let them come to you, do not try to run after them. A lot people think it’s ok to come closer and do not realise how dangerous it can be for the animals and for themselves, it is not ok!

Photographing wildlife is my greatest passion, and I love sharing it with others. I particularly like that time of day after a safari when my clients look through the photos they’ve taken and they say how amazed they are at the quality of the wildlife photography they managed to take with their camera. It’s very satisfying. There’s a big difference between a snapshot and a superb image that they’ll treasure forever, and that’s usually achieved through clever composition. 

Using Format