Wildlife Photography Composition Tips

Wildlife Photography Composition Tips

Baby Elephant Seal

1. Avoid Placing Your Subject in the Centre of the Frame

Many wildlife photographers, when beginning their photography, place wildlife directly in the centre of the frame. If at all possible, avoid doing this. Instead, compose your image so that the animal’s face is across the intersecting ‘rule-of-third’ lines. If you place the subject in the centre, it often forces the viewer’s eyes to stay on the subject, which can end up producing a very average image. By composing your subject off-centre, it makes for a much more pleasing image, as the viewer will tend to look at what else is surrounding the subject.

2. Shoot at Eye Level

From the very beginning, when I started learning about wildlife photography some 25 years ago, I was told by my photographic mentor to ‘shoot at eye level’. Rather than standing up and pointing your camera and lens down onto an animal that’s on the ground, get down as low as you can. Photographing wildlife at their level is so much more pleasing to the eye.

The same goes for shooting straight up at an animal. Its not always possible to get to their level, but by stepping back a few metres, for example, your composition will be so much nicer. In some cases, if there is a hill nearby or some steps, I suggest walking up the hill or steps so that you are on a similar level as the subject. One exception to this rule, is when there is a bird (or birds) flying above you.

3. Watch out for Distracting Backgrounds

Over the last 20+ years, I have judged thousands upon thousands of images in nature and wildlife photography competitions. So often, I have seen amazing wildlife images, only to be ruined by a very distracting background. If you look at an image and your eye goes straight to the distraction, rather than the subject, it ruins the effect you are trying to convey. By distractions, I am referring to things like man-made objects (buildings, fences, cars etc), bright highlights or blurred out trees and branches. In many situations, you can move around the subject until you have a smooth, blurred out background that doesn’t
compete with the subject.

If your subject is cooperative, I suggest shooting a few frames and then checking the images on the camera’s LCD screen. If a distraction pops out at you ‘like a sore thumb’, then change the angle or direction from which you are photographing. In some instances, if there is a distracting shiny leaf in the background, simply pick it up and move it out of the way. It’s much easier to do this in situ, rather than trying to clone out the distraction during post-processing!
(PS – many nature photography competitions don’t allow cloning of any sort, so best to move the distraction while you are physically out photographing).

4. Focus on the Eyes

One very important rule when photographing wildlife is to focus on the eyes of your subject. If the animal/bird is way out in the distance and tiny in the frame, then focusing on the actual subject is fine. But if you are closer, then it’s the eye that your camera’s focus point should be on. When viewing an image, whether it be online, in a publication or as a framed print, it doesn’t work as well if the eyes aren’t in focus. The first thing we tend to look at when looking at an image of an animal is the eyes, so it makes perfect sense to focus on them. In some instances, such as when you are photographing wildlife in an abstract or arty way, this rule doesn’t count but for most situations, it is very important.

5. Best use of Negative Space

An alternative to tight or close up shots of wildlife is the use of ‘negative space’ in wildlife photography. This is where the subject is a very small part of the image and looks out or is travelling across a vast landscape. In many wildlife photography competitions, the category ‘animals in the environment’ has become increasingly popular. The aim of such images is to capture on camera not only an interesting image of an animal, but also the environment in which this particular species lives. A stunning landscape, coupled with the subject, can make for some impressive shots. The space around the subject can greatly change the viewer’s perception of the image they are looking at. Basically, the negative space around a subject can tell the ‘story’ of the image.

In Conclusion

The best thing I can suggest is to get out there with your camera and try some of these techniques. Practise, try new techniques, then practise some more.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Bird Photography Techniques – Avoid Cloning Same Backgrounds

Bird Photography Techniques – Avoid Cloning Same Backgrounds

Splendid Fairy Wren

I love seeing images of other bird photographers. There are plenty of shots posted daily on places such as Facebook and Instagram and it’s great to se such variety. There are some exceptional photographers out there but one thing I have noticed is the noticeable increase in bird images where the background has been either cloned out or ‘blurred’. Yes, it makes the bird(s) stand out but plenty of photographers are using the same peach/pastel backgrounds, rendering the images ‘more of the same’.

To do this occasionally is fine, in my opinion, but to do this for every single image can become quite monotonous. I have been teaching bird photography techniques for 17 years+ and have always taught participants to ‘get it right in camera’, out in the field. You can the process your image, of course, but by using a natural background that’s blurred out, it is a much more pleasing image.

In some cases, you can easily see a halo or white mark around the bird, where the cloning or blurring wasn’t done well. To me, that completely spoils the image. I have also seen where photographers have blurred the background and the blurred sections have been used multiple times and are identical to each other, something that again spoils the image.

Sure, there are definitely instances where the bird(s) are in a spot where you have no choice but to takes shots as is, regardless of the unsightly background. In those examples, you can work on your background on the computer, so that the bird doesn’t get ‘lost’ in the image. I, however, have NEVER cloned a background and it has always been my aim to work that bit harder to get it right, out in the field.

Removing a blade or two of grass or a twig is common practice in post, using the Spot Healing Brush and Content Aware Fill, in Photoshop, but the image remains as close to authentic as possible.

I must add that there is nothing wrong with cloning backgrounds out and replacing them, if that’s what you enjoy doing. It is, in the end, a personal choice. Just try not doing the SAME cloning/blurring for shot after shot.

Lastly, if you are entering nature photography competitions, please read the rules very carefully, as they vary from competition to competition. Some, such as Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ in the U.K., don’t allow any cloning whatsoever and you must provided the original RAW file on request, if you are selected for the finals.

In the end, do what makes you happy and feels right. I’m only suggesting you don’t become a ‘clone’ with every single image you process : – ))

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Best Wildlife Photography Locations in Australia: Lord Howe Island – NSW

Best Wildlife Photography Locations in Australia: Lord Howe Island – NSW

Lord Howe Island Woodhen

Lord Howe Island is a small island off the east coast of Australia. It is officially a part of New South Wales and can be accessed by flying from either Sydney or Brisbane. It is, without doubt, one of my favourite locations in Australia to visit with my camera. The air is clean, there are few cars and the island limits the number of visitors that can visit at one time.

Recently, there was a multi-million dollar vermin eradication program implemented, which will help the local birds and wildlife thrive. Birds are plentiful on Lord Howe Island. The truly angelic White Terns hover above your head around the island, making it quite easy to get shots of them in flight. Sooty Terns nest by the tens of thousands in spring (Australian spring), so depending on when you travel, you will see countless birds nesting right in front of you on the beach, either sitting on eggs or looking after their fluffy chicks.

The most famous bird on the island is the lord Howe Island Woodhen. This bird is only found on Lord Howe Island and nowhere else on earth! At one stage, there were only 30 or so birds left in the world, whereas nowadays there are an estimated 300+ individuals. The Lord Howe Island Woodhen can be seen frequently foraging on the ground around the island and are quite used to people.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Best Wildlife Photography Locations in Australia: Lamington National Park – Queensland

Best Wildlife Photography Locations in Australia: Lamington National Park – Queensland

Regent Bowerbird

A two hour drive from Brisbane or a one hour fifteen minute drive from the Gold Coast, Lamington National Park is World Heritage listed for good reason. Habitats vary from subtropical and remnant rainforest, ancient Antarctic Beech forest, sclerophyll and eucalyptus forest. The variety of wildlife species, therefore, is incredibly varied. Birds and other wildlife are used to visitors, so can also often be photographed at close range. Some of the species of birds that frequent the Lamington National Park include the rare Albert’s Lyrebird, the Regent and Satin Bowerbird, Noisy Pitta and Eastern Spinebill (amongst 245 or so species of birds found in Lamington National Park). Mammal species include the cute macropod called the Red-necked Pademelon, which often frequent the visitor areas, as well as the nocturnal Brush-tailed and Ring-tailed possums which are regular visitors. Two of the many reptile species that can be seen and photographed include the Leaf-tailed Gecko and the pure black Land Mullet, Australia’s largest skink.

Wildlife photography in Lamington National Park is quite easy, as there are plenty of walking tracks where many of the wildlife frequent.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

Best Wildlife Photography Locations in Australia: Yellow Water – Kakadu N.P.

Best Wildlife Photography Locations in Australia: Yellow Water – Kakadu N.P.

Kakadu Photography Workshop

Australia is a true haven for wildlife photography, with so many different types of habitats being home to a plethora of varied wildlife species. There are lots of different habitats for wildlife to thrive in: islands, beaches, rainforests, eucalypt forests, granite country, snowfields, desert and the outback, to name but a few.

Having been a specialist wildlife/nature photographer here for the last 24 years and having presented photography tours for the last 17 years, I have traversed much of this amazing continent, camera-in-hand. In this article, my aim is to show you some of the BEST wildlife photography locations and experiences Australia has to offer.

Yellow Water – Kakadu National Park – Northern Territory

One of the most incredible bird and wildlife experiences in Australia can be found at ‘Yellow Water’, situated in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. The unbelievable variety and number of birds (over 280 species) is truly breathtaking and many species such as the Comb-crested Jacana can be photographed at quite close range. Reptiles include Saltwater Crocodiles in large numbers (they can be photographed from the safety of a boat), as well iconic reptile species such as the Frill-necked Lizard, monitors and various other lizards and geckoes. Mammals species include the dingo, Northern Quolls, Agile and Short-eared Rock Wallabies as well as Bandicoots.

There are plenty of boat trips that cruise Yellow Water daily, where you will get to see and photograph wildlife to your heart’s content!!

Yellow Water is approximately 300kms from Darwin (Northern Territory capital). You can either hire a car and drive or book one of the buses that drive there direct.

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

How To Capture Creative Photos In Nature

How To Capture Creative Photos In Nature

Golden Orb Spider

Every day, millions of images are posted and published. For your images to stand out from the proverbial ‘crowd’, it’s always a good idea to get a bit creative, when taking images. Try taking a photo of a subject from a completely different angle to anything you have tried before. Try shooting from different heights and use varied focal lengths. Don’t look at other photography competition winners and replicate his or her winning image(s), as it has already been done. Try angles that, quite literally, shouldn’t work according to photography rule books. You may take 50 shots, all from different positions and angles, yet only one of those images will be that unique one that works.

With digital photography, it doesn’t matter how many images you take. Shoot like crazy, experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. Try placing your subject in direct line with the sun, using the subject to cover it. You could end up with some pretty funky backlighting and effects. For those of you that own wide lenses that go to f2.8 (or smaller), get creative by focusing on just one part of an image and blur out the rest. Some will work, some won’t, but that’s the fun part of experimenting.

If your preference is for macro photography, water has the potential creating many different moods and effects. Photographing rain drop reflections can be very rewarding and create some great artistic effects. For example, try shooting a spider’s web just after sunrise, after it has rained. The subtle light can create sublime rainbow-coloured effects, especially with the sun shining at just the right angle (see image above).

For wildlife, don’t always photograph the whole animal. Try a head and shoulders portrait, or simply take shots of a bird’s feathers or a reptile’s scales. If possible, photograph just the animal’s eye(s) for a striking effect.

Images that are perfectly sharp, well composed and photographed in good lighting are nice, but do they create a positive reaction when someone looks at the image for the first time? With so many images being posted online every day, it’s an idea to showcase images that evoke a reaction, just by being ‘different’.

When looking at the winning images of photography competitions, you will often see shots that are truly unique. Judges will always agree and disagree on what’s images are winners but often it’s the ones that are ‘out there’ that win these competitions.

The best advice I can give:

“Get on out there with your camera and give anything a try. It costs you nothing and will get your creative juices flowing”

 

If you have a passion for wildlife, nature or travel photography and would love to go on a small-number, professional photography adventure, please get in touch with Michael Snedic at WildNature Photo Expeditions. You can call him on 0408 941 965 or fill in this Contact Form and he will get back to you ASAP.

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