Composition and Story-telling in Wildlife Photography

By Luke Street

We often hear the term ‘story telling’ being associated with photography and while it is a major part of photography and in particular wildlife photography, we are not talking about a life story here or 3-part novel series! We are merely talking about creating interest within the images you capture, and the ways one can achieve this is through well thought out composition.

There are a few easy ways that you can go about this and by making use of these simple options you can dramatically improve your photography. Think about it this way; there are very few images that capture a person’s eye when the subject of the image is just situated or rather ‘plonked’ right in the middle of the frame. However, this does of course work on some occasions.

When taking an image rather try and situate your subject towards one side of the frame. Essentially you should favour one side to the other. You can then take this one step further and make use of the direction in which your subject is positioned or looking. For example, if your subject is looking to the right, then situate them to the left of the frame. This essentially gives the animal space to ‘look into’ or ‘move into’. This dramatically helps the viewer make sense of the image and gives the illusion of space. Another nice affect this creates is a sense of scenery which helps to create the story by giving the viewer a glimpse of the environment the animal is found in. This compositional approach is called the Rule of Thirds.

Another simple yet less commonly used approach is called Quadrants. This composition style implies that you have your subject focused towards one of the 4 corners of the frame, such as the image below. This really helps to set the scene and capture a lot of the environment as well as possibly a secondary subject.

Lastly one can also create interest in an image by capturing detail. This doesn’t necessarily create a story but a good close up and detailed image of your subject will definitely have the viewer inspecting your image for longer.

So, as you can see it really doesn’t take to much in order to nail down good composition. These are just simple steps to take and in time you will create your own style through figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t.

Let us know in the comments if you have a different approach. The more we can all learn for each other the better, after all.


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