Wildlife Photography Composition Guide

Written By: John

Wildlife photography is a rewarding and challenging form of art. Capturing the perfect shot takes skill, knowledge, and creativity – but what about composition? Composition plays an essential role in wildlife photography; it helps to bring out the beauty of nature’s creatures and can even tell stories. The following article provides an easy-to-follow guide on how to compose successful wildlife images that will have everyone oohing and ahhing!

For those wanting to capture stunning shots of animals in their natural habitats, there are several things they need to consider when composing their image. From vantage points and background elements to depth of field and focal length, this guide will take you through each step needed for great wildlife photos. We’ll also discuss key tips on how to blend into your surroundings while shooting so as not to disturb any wildlife or disrupt their natural behavior.

So if you’re ready to start honing your skills in wildlife photography composition, read on! By following some wildlife photography tips and making just a few simple changes here and there, you could be well on your way to taking some unforgettable images that celebrate the wonders of nature!

Choosing A Subject

When it comes to wildlife photography composition, the first step is choosing a subject. This has a big impact on how your photos will look, so it’s important to be thoughtful when deciding what you want to capture. You should think about things like the size of the animal or bird and its position relative to the environment – both these factors can affect the degree of detail that can be seen in the photo. Additionally, consider any interesting characteristics or behaviors of the creature which could make for an engaging image.

Once you have decided on your focus, experiment with different angles and perspectives in order to create more visually appealing images. Getting closer to your subject may allow for greater accuracy in capturing details, but this could also change the angle from which light hits them; something else you need to take into consideration when composing photographs. Moving around to find different views can help bring out subtle aspects that aren’t visible at other angles, making the overall shot more dynamic and captivating.

In addition to viewing distance and perspective, pay attention to depth of field as well as where objects are located within it. A shallow depth of field means focusing only on one element while blurring out everything else – this can work very effectively in some shots by leading viewers’ eyes directly towards your main point of interest. Conversely, if there are multiple elements involved then using a larger depth of field allows all areas within an image remain sharp; helping them form together harmoniously and creating balance throughout the frame.

Now that you’ve considered various elements related to selecting a subject for wildlife photography composition, understanding light becomes another essential factor for achieving great results with your images.

Understanding Light

Light is a crucial factor in wildlife photography composition. It can be used to create both beautiful and dramatic images, as well as helping you capture the best shots of your subject. Understanding light is key for capturing stunning photos that stand out from the crowd. Here are five ways to make sure you’re getting the most out of it:

Firstly, pay attention to where the sun is positioned relative to your subject and how warm or cool its light appears on them. A backlit shot, with the sun behind your subject, will give their body a halo-like glow while silhouetting them against an illuminated backdrop. On the other hand, having the sun directly overhead or in front of them may lead to harsh shadows across their face which could ruin your photo.

Secondly, observe how natural colors are affected by different lighting conditions – this will help you determine when and where to take pictures for maximum impact. When shooting during sunrise or sunset, look at how warmer tones like reds, oranges and yellows become more saturated than usual due to longer wavelengths of light passing through more atmosphere. Alternatively, if you’re taking photographs during midday then cooler colors such as blues and greens appear sharper since shorter wavelengths don’t have far to travel before reaching your camera’s sensor.

Thirdly, use reflectors if available! These tools allow photographers to redirect sunlight onto their subjects’ faces or bodies and minimize any unwanted shadows they might cast themselves; this creates an even light distribution throughout the image resulting in better quality photographs overall. Additionally, some types of reflectors come with colored panels so you can mix up things and experiment with different shades too!

Lastly, try experimenting with shutter speed depending on what kind of effect you want to achieve within each frame i.e., long exposure shots will blur together moving elements like waterfalls whereas quicker speeds can freeze action mid-air or record fast-paced animal behavior in detail. All these techniques combined let photographers tell stories through visuals without ever needing words – something truly special about wildlife photography composition!

By mastering all aspects related to light manipulation – from positioning yourself correctly relative to its source right through to using various accessories – one can really bring life into otherwise plain scenes; this opens up vast opportunities for creative expression that would not have been possible prior planning & understanding particular lighting situations beforehand.

Planning Your Photo Shoot

Once the basic concepts of light have been grasped, it’s time to start planning a photo shoot. This involves deciding where and when to go for the best results. See our guide to wildlife photography scouting for more information. It can be useful to research different locations in advance, looking at factors such as which animals frequent certain areas, what weather conditions are likely, and so on.

It’s also important to consider composition before leaving home. Think about angles and perspectives that might work well with the subject matter you plan to capture. You could even try practising some shots virtually with virtual backgrounds or props – this will help give an idea of how your photos might look once taken in real life.

When preparing your gear, make sure you’ve got all the necessary lenses, batteries and memory cards needed for your chosen location and situation. If there’s anything else you think may come in handy – like filters or tripods – take them too! By having everything ready ahead of time, nothing should get in the way of getting fantastic wildlife photography shots when out on location.

The next step is selecting camera settings appropriate for wildlife photography: shutter speed, ISO level, aperture size etc. All these elements play a role in capturing stunning images; setting up correctly beforehand will ensure success!

Selecting Camera Settings

Once you’ve planned your photo shoot, it’s time to select camera settings. This is an important step that can determine how successful your wildlife photography composition will be.

When selecting camera settings, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First and foremost, decide which type of image format you want to use – JPEG or RAW. JPEG images are more common but don’t offer as much flexibility when editing the file after the fact; however, they do take up less memory on your storage device. On the other hand, RAW files provide higher quality images for post-processing and have larger file sizes than JPEGs. Ultimately, this decision comes down to personal preference and what kind of image output you’re looking for.

In addition to deciding between JPEG and RAW formats, here are some further points about camera settings:

  • Resolution & Quality: Higher resolution means bigger print size options afterwards; conversely lower resolutions may save space on media cards but won’t look great enlarged. Selecting the highest possible quality setting will ensure good results with either option.
  • White Balance: You’ll need to adjust white balance according to lighting conditions (daylight vs artificial light). If unsure then shooting in auto mode might help avoid incorrect colour casts throughout your photos.
  • ISO: Generally speaking a low ISO setting produces better quality images without noise; however increasing ISO can also lead to faster shutter speeds which captures action shots more effectively – so choose wisely!

Selecting appropriate camera settings is essential if you want professional-looking photographic results from your photo shoots – think carefully before pressing ‘shutter’. From here we move onto using camera angles creatively in order to capture interesting compositions while photographing wildlife.

Using Camera Angles

Once you have chosen your camera settings, the next step is to consider the angles that may best capture the composition of your wildlife photography. Angles can be used to create a sense of depth or emphasize certain features of an animal’s physique and behavior. Here are some tips for using different angles to get great shots:

First, use low-angle shots to make the subject look larger than life. This will also help draw attention to dramatic details like eyes, horns, and fur. To achieve this angle, try getting down on one knee or even lie flat on your stomach.

Second, high-angle shots can help you depict animals in their natural element while minimizing distracting background elements. You don’t need any special equipment – just mount your camera higher up or raise it above eye level with a tripod.

Third, birds-eye views can provide fascinating perspectives by emphasizing shapes created by shadows and backgrounds as well as painting a picture of how animals interact with each other and their environment from above. The only challenge here is finding the right elevation so that you can still fill the frame with enough detail without disturbing them too much!

Finally, explore creative options such as oblique angles which allow you to take advantage of interesting light sources while providing unique perspectives on movement patterns and behavior. With these techniques in hand, you’re sure to capture stunning images that tell powerful stories about our wild friends!
TIP: When shooting wildlife at ground level remember to keep yourself out of sight if possible; this way they won’t be scared away before you’ve had a chance to snap some beautiful photographs!

Utilizing The Rule Of Thirds

The rule of thirds is an essential element for successful wildlife photography composition. It involves dividing the image into three equal parts horizontally and vertically, creating nine distinct sections. The subject or point of interest should be placed at one of these intersections rather than in the center to create a more dynamic and aesthetically pleasing shot. This technique can also help photographers make the most out of their framing choices.

When using the rule of thirds it’s important to consider where exactly you are placing your focal point within the frame. For example, if you have a bird perched on a tree branch then aligning its eyes with one intersection will draw attention towards it as opposed to incorporating too much background noise. Additionally, by angling your camera slightly off-center you can often add depth and dimension that wouldn’t otherwise be possible when shooting straight ahead.

It’s also beneficial to experiment with different perspectives such as low angles or high viewpoints depending on what type of scene you’re trying to capture. Changing up your position relative to the subject can result in some truly unique shots which may not have been achievable from any other angle. Finally, utilizing manual focus points instead of autofocus allows for greater control over how exactly each part of the image looks – especially when combined with the rule of thirds!

By making use of this fundamental compositional guideline, photographers can easily refine their images and craft eye-catching compositions that stand out amongst others. With practice, anyone can master this technique and improve their wildlife photography skillset significantly – all while having fun along the way! Next up: capturing movement in wildlife photos – another key skill needed for success behind the lens!

Capturing Movement

Moving subjects can bring energy and life to your photography. To capture movement, you have to be prepared and anticipate the subject’s movements. This means using a faster shutter speed than normal – usually 1/500th of a second or higher. If there isn’t enough light for this, try increasing your ISO setting or use flash.

You also need to follow the moving subject with your camera in order to keep it in focus. A great way to practice this is by shooting sports events like soccer games or track meets. It will help you get used to tracking fast-moving objects while still keeping them sharp.

When photographing wildlife, you may not always be able to predict where an animal will go next. That’s why it’s important to stay alert and react quickly when something unexpected happens. You’ll want to adjust your settings accordingly so that you don’t miss any fleeting moments or action shots!

By mastering these techniques, you’ll be well on your way to capturing beautiful images of animals that are alive with motion. With patience, practice and some trial and error, you’ll soon find yourself taking stunning pictures of wildlife on the move! Transitioning smoothly into focusing on detail, let us explore how we can hone our compositions even further…

Focusing On Detail

Focusing on detail can be a great way to create an interesting composition. By honing in on specific elements, you can draw the viewer’s eye and bring attention to smaller aspects of your subject. This technique is especially useful when photographing wildlife; by focusing on texture, pattern or individual features you can make the image stand out from others that might feature similar subjects.

One way to capture detailed shots is with macro photography, which involves using special lenses and equipment in order to get up close and personal with your subject. This kind of photography allows for much more control over what details are visible in the final shot and it also creates unique perspectives that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

When taking macro photos, it’s important to remember that even small changes in focus point can have a big impact on the overall scene so spend time adjusting the settings until everything looks just right! You should also think about how different angles will affect the details you’re trying to highlight – capturing them from above, below or at an angle can all yield very different results.

Now that you know how to focus on detail, it’s time to explore another creative element: experimenting with color and pattern. With careful consideration of both hue and light intensity, you’ll be able to produce stunning images that truly capture the beauty of nature around us.

Experimenting With Color And Pattern

It’s easy to get caught up in the details of wildlife photography composition, but don’t forget about experimenting with color and pattern. Working with hues and shapes can create a visually stimulating image that will draw your viewer’s attention. This could mean introducing bright colors against a muted background or focusing on a repeating pattern within an animal’s fur or feathers.

Combining different textures into one scene can also be eye-catching for viewers. For instance, try using contrasting elements such as water droplets mixed in with fur or feathers – it’ll make your photo stand out from the pack! Keep these tips in mind when you’re searching for interesting compositions while shooting outdoors.

Don’t limit yourself to just one element either; combining multiple textures together is what makes great photos memorable. Try incorporating various patterns like stripes, spots, and swirls all at once – this will help keep your audience engaged throughout the entire shoot!

In addition, have fun playing around with lighting too! Placing light sources behind certain objects can enhance their shape and add depth to the overall composition. It’ll give you a fresh perspective on how color and texture interact with each other in natural settings. With some practice and experimentation, you’ll soon find success creating beautiful works of art through wildlife photography composition.

Creating The Perfect Composition

When it comes to creating the perfect wildlife photography composition, there are a few key elements that you’ll need to consider. Firstly, you should take into account how much of the scene will be in your frame. This includes considering what’s in front and behind your subject as well as at either side. You can use different techniques such as zooming in or out with your lens or changing camera angles to help create more interesting compositions.

The next thing to think about is leading lines and perspective. While shooting from an angle can give more dynamism to a photo, sometimes shooting straight on gives images greater impact. Look for patterns within the landscape that could lead viewers’ eyes towards where you want them to focus their attention. For example, using pathways through landscapes or rivers flowing away from the main focal point of your image often helps draw interest into the shot.

Lighting is also a major factor when composing wildlife photos. If possible try and shoot during golden hour which usually occurs just before sunset and sunrise and provides beautiful warm light that creates stunning effects across landscapes. Also look for contrasting natural light sources like sunlight against shadows, this adds texture and depth to the image which makes it stand out even further!

Finally, don’t forget about posing! Even if animals aren’t able to strike poses themselves, they still have postures based on their environment so make sure you’re aware of these while taking shots – are they sitting tall? Are they crouching low? These subtle features really add another level of detail to photographs making them all the better for it!

TIP: Use props in nature scenes for birds who won’t sit still – perches made from sticks provide good height for great eye contact!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type Of Lens Should I Use For Wildlife Photography?

When it comes to wildlife photography, having the right lenses can make all the difference. There are a few key factors to consider when choosing which lens is best for your needs. In this guide, we’ll explore these considerations and offer some tips on what type of lens you should use for wildlife photography.

First, think about how far away you’ll be from the animal or scene that you’re photographing. If you’re shooting close-up shots of animals in captivity or small creatures like birds, then a macro lens will likely suit your purpose well. Macro lenses allow photographers to capture intricate details and get up close with their subjects – perfect for capturing those amazing wildlife moments!

On the other hand, if you’re looking to take pictures of larger animals such as elephants or bears at a distance, then a telephoto zoom lens may be more suitable. Such lenses enable photographers to shoot distant scenes while still getting sharp images and great detail – ideal for capturing wonderful images of wild animals in action! Here’s a list of features commonly found in telephoto zoom lenses:

  • Magnification range – allowing you to bring even far away objects into focus
  • Image stabilization technology – making sure every shot stays clear and crisp no matter how much movement there is
  • Fast autofocus speeds – ensuring that no moment goes uncaptured
  • Durable construction – so your investment lasts for years down the line
  • High quality optics – giving you crystal clear results throughout your entire image field.

For maximum flexibility during a photo session, many experienced wildlife photographers opt for an interchangeable lens camera system with multiple prime and zoom lenses. With this kind of setup, they can switch between different focal lengths quickly and easily depending on their subject matter and desired composition. This way they don’t have to carry around several bulky cameras but instead just one light weight body with various lenses attached according to their needs.

No matter what type of lens you choose for your wildlife photography adventures, always remember that practice makes perfect! Spend time experimenting with different settings until you find what works best for each situation; soon enough your photos will start looking sharper than ever before!

How Do I Get Close To Animals Without Spooking Them?

Taking great wildlife photos usually involves getting up close and personal with your subjects. But if you don’t know how to do it properly, you could end up spooking the animals – which isn’t good for anyone! To help make sure that doesn’t happen, here are some tips on how to get close to animals without scaring them away.

First of all, always approach slowly when trying to get closer to an animal. By taking small steps at a time and not making any sudden movements or loud noises, you’ll be less likely to startle them. It also helps if you keep talking in low tones as this will let the animal know there is no danger present. You should also pay attention to the signs the animal gives off; if they look agitated or fearful then back off immediately.

Another important factor is understanding their environment so that you can blend in better. If possible, try wearing colors similar to those found in nature such as greens and browns instead of bright reds or yellows which might draw too much attention from the animal. Additionally, finding areas where there’s plenty of vegetation around is key because it allows you more cover while still being able to observe the animals closely without alarming them too quickly.

Lastly, remember that patience is essential when dealing with wild animals. Don’t expect results instantly; take your time getting comfortable with one another before attempting any shots. And remember: safety first! Make sure both yourself and the animal remain calm throughout your shoot by giving each other enough space until either one of you decides otherwise. With these techniques, you’re sure to get great photographs without worrying about scaring any creatures away!


In conclusion, wildlife photography can be a rewarding experience. It’s important to equip yourself with the right gear and know how to use it. Invest in a good quality lens that will capture the details you need for crisp shots of your subjects. Make sure to protect your equipment from the elements when shooting outdoors by packing it away properly or using weather-proof covers. You’ll also want to get close enough to animals without spooking them so they feel comfortable around you. The best time of day is usually early morning or late evening when animals are most active, but this may vary depending on species and location. With practice and patience, you’ll have the perfect shot in no time!

The Creativv
American digital marketer and founder of TheCreativv.com with over a decade of experience in event, travel, portrait, product, and cityscape photography.