“I can’t take awesome wildlife images because I have an entry-level camera.”
“My images don’t look excellent. Hmm, I think it is because my camera is not full frame; it does not have high dynamic range and high ISO capability. It’s time that I upgrade to a higher camera version.”
Does this sound like you? Are these types of thoughts stopping you from making beautiful wildlife images? Well, I have good news for you. Today, I will show you the five simple composition techniques I use to create stunning wildlife images. And the best part is: these composition techniques work great with any type of camera.
You can start using these techniques to create stunning wildlife images right away. Let’s dive right in.
5 Simple Tips for Creating Beautiful Wildlife Images
Table of contents
Let’s start with one of the fundamental rules in photography — The Rule of Thirds.
Divide the frame into 9 parts by using 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines. The horizontal and vertical lines intersect at 4 points.
When composing the picture, position the main object where the horizontal and vertical lines intersect.
Note: In your camera, turn the grid option on. This will enable the grid display while you photograph the image. (Refer to your camera manual on how to enable the grid option)
In the image of the snake, which we spotted while driving through the grasslands, this rat snake peeked out. The snake’s eye lies on the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines.
During editing, you can also utilize the Rule of Thirds while cropping the image. Similarly, in the second image of the hoopoe bird, the eye and head of the bird are at the intersection of the horizontal and vertical lines.
Using the Rule of Thirds will significantly impact the visual appeal of an image.
The foreground can produce some interesting wildlife images. Adding foreground to your wildlife images will give a fine feeling of the wilderness.
You can add rocks, grass, or trees as foreground objects in the wildlife image. Most wildlife images will have the main object and background, but include the foreground as well. You will see—it adds depth to the picture. The image is 2-dimensional; adding an interesting foreground object makes the image feel 3-dimensional due to the added depth.
In both leopard images, the leopard was hiding behind the bushes, peering through the foliage at us. Including foreground elements like trees and bushes not only gives a sense of the leopard’s habitat but also highlights the stealthy behavior of the leopard.
In the image of an elephant, there is a tree canopy around the elephant. This canopy adds depth to the image.
Also, you can see a deer portrait here. If you include some plants in the foreground it adds depth to the image and makes it interesting.
Compared to the Rule of Thirds, Centered Composition is different. In this composition, you keep the main wildlife object at the center. If you photograph the wildlife exactly at the center, you can bring the viewers’ attention to it. This composition will help you strongly connect the viewer with your wildlife image.
In the image of the crested hawk eagle, I wanted to showcase the intense eyes of the eagle, so I composed the eagle’s eyes at the center.
This big male tusker was grazing in the golden evening light. Through this image, I wanted to highlight the elephant’s big tusks and majestic appearance. Hence, I used centered composition.
On a summer morning, this giant squirrel was busy picking fruits from a tree branch. It was a beautiful moment to observe. Here, my intention was to depict the natural behavior of the squirrel amidst the trees and branches. Therefore, I employed a centered composition to draw your attention specifically to the fruit-picking giant squirrel!
A symmetrical composition is a beautiful way to photograph wildlife. Finding wildlife in a symmetrical pose is challenging, but observing wildlife movements will reveal incredibly symmetrical compositions. Once you find a symmetrical composition, photographing it is the relatively easy part.
While we were in the boat, the herd of elephants was grazing on the river bank. There was a big male tusker in the group. I was closely observing the tusker’s movements. There was a moment when this male tusker was standing exactly in front of a female elephant.
That’s the moment I was looking for. As soon as both the elephants were symmetrically facing each other, I clicked this image! As we were driving through the forest, this pair of woodpeckers was flying around.
Both of the woodpeckers landed on the same tree, and they were continually moving. I knew this was the moment I should be ready.
I was observing the woodpeckers through the camera viewfinder. As soon as both woodpeckers appeared on opposite sides of the tree trunk—achieving symmetry—I captured multiple images. This one was the best among them.
As you can see, incorporating two wildlife subjects in a symmetrical composition elevates your wildlife image to the next level.
Here is an image of an osprey bird. This osprey was trying to hunt for fish. As the osprey was flying around, I clicked this image.
There is space in which the bird is looking and flying towards, known as negative space.
Similarly, this spotted deer was looking at the back. There is a space in the direction in which the deer is looking.
This space is called negative space.
In your images, look where the main object is moving or looking at. Leave some space in the direction of the object’s movement. Also, have some space in the direction of what the object is looking at.
Composing a negative space will make the composition beautiful.
Now It’s Your Turn
I hope these easy yet effective composition tips will help you create beautiful wildlife images. Now, which of the composition tips from today’s post are you going to try first? Or do you have a question about the composition tips in this post? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
About the Author
Shreyas S. Yadav is an engineer, wildlife and nature photographer from India. He is also a writer and lifelong adventure explorer. Through his writings, he teaches about digital post-processing and nature photography. He shares field techniques about nature photography, post-processing, and wildlife photo stories on his website.