I’m a strong believer that composition is the most important photography skill. In fact, if you’ve ever messaged me on Instagram asking for photography advice then you probably know that already!
New cameras and new software will come and go, but your ability to compose an image is something you will carry with you throughout your entire photographic journey. Don’t get me wrong, new gear is exciting and can inspire you to go out and shoot, but it’s easy to get so caught up on the details that you forget to actually go outside and use the kit you already have.
For centuries, artists have employed composition techniques to draw our eye, make us feel a certain way and tell us a story. I’m fairly certain Leonardo da Vinci et al. weren’t sitting around discussing which newly-released paintbrush they should buy. They just got on with chasing their vision. As the old saying goes, “the best paintbrush is the one you have with you.”
If you want to become a great wildlife photographer, it’s not enough to fly across the world and spend hours tracking down exotic animals. You also need to put the hours into honing your craft, so when you’re finally face to face with that animal you come away with the best images possible.
If you’re not confident about which camera settings to use, any modern camera can do a lot of the hard work for you. Your camera can automatically set your focus, ISO, shutter speed, aperture and so on but it can’t compose your image for you. That’s all down to you.
With wildlife photography especially, where so many aspects are in the hands of the gods, composition is one of the few things we can prepare for and take control over. You can’t ask an animal to take two steps to the left or to look at your camera, but you can use different composition techniques to completely change the feel of the image and the story it tells.
Above all else, composition is your identity as a photographer. How you compose an image – all those tiny little decisions and actions that culminate in you pressing the shutter – is what makes your photography uniquely yours.
Get out there and find yourself.
My new Wildlife Photography Composition ebook is launching next month. I cover everything I know about composing images of wildlife, and guide you towards finding your own style. Make sure you’re subscribed to my email list (below) so you don’t miss it!
In the meantime, you can check out my free tutorials here.