Photo Challenge 5: ‘Composition’ by Craig Jones



We’re now five weeks into our series of photography challenges. This week Currys enlists Craig Jones, whose wildlife images have graced the covers and pages of numerous premier publications across the globe.

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We're now five weeks into our series of photography challenges. Each week, Currys invites a leading UK expert to set our readers a photography challenge for the opportunity to win a 'One Day Photography Course' and one of six Nikon Coolpix S6500  cameras

This week Currys enlists Craig Jones, whose wildlife images have graced the covers and pages of numerous premier publications across the globe. Craig has also been a shortlisted finalist in both the Veolia Environment Wildlife and the GDT European Wildlife photographer of the year awards, and a commended nominee in the British Wildlife Photography Awards.

 

Composition

As an Ex-Soldier, expert in fieldcraft and tracking skills, I have long used these skills to produce images that show others the beauty of the natural world. My challenge is to produce an image that captures the essence of composition.  

To enter, go to the Currys PC World Facebook page.

 

Overall, there are no hard and fast rules on composition but there are lots of considerations that all add up. Composition can make or break an image, and that's why it's one of the most important elements to photography there is. Below are my tips for achieving the best image you can.

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Tip 1: Simplicity is often the key to composing a successful photograph. A well-composed image should never look cluttered and the main focal point / subject should be obvious. When composing an image, decide which parts of the scene are the most important to you and try hard to exclude any elements that don't have a role or detract from the composition you are trying to achieve.

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Tip 2: Shooting from a low angle with a long telephoto lens can instantly simplify your composition by throwing all but the main subject out of focus, particularly effective when photographing many species of animals and birds.

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Tip 3: When photographing wildlifeit is often necessary to make compositional decisions very quickly as in most parts wildlife won't stay still long enough to let you compose the image that you'd ideally like.  Good fieldcraft and listening to your natural instinct are key elements that can earn you a bit of extra time to compose your subject. 

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Tip 4: Observe the direction the subject is facing (or looking) as it implies interest and possible movement in that direction. Therefore it is important to leave extra space in that direction, whether in portrait or landscape view. The best way of achieving this is to employ the 'Rule of Thirds'.  Arrange the elements in your picture to form the strongest possible composition by imagining a grid of lines drawn through the viewfinder, splitting the frame into nine equal parts. The subject should be placed roughly where the two lines cross.

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With that said, the rule of thirds is not something you always have to follow. It simply suggests that an image should be imagined as divided into a grid of nine equal parts, using two equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines.  You then place the important compositional elements along these lines or intersecting points.

These intersections are known as 'Power Points' and are the areas within the rectangular frame where the eye tends to fall naturally. They can lead to a successful composition when more room is left in front of the subject than behind, giving the subject space to breathe.

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Tip 5: Check the background to make sure that it is interesting but not fighting the main subject for attention as small distractions make a big difference to photographs. 

Look for the cleanest backgrounds and obtain the best angle from which to capture your chosen subject. This may mean shifting your shooting position slightly but with active birds and animals you can simply wait for the subject to move.

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Tip 6: Try to get level with your subject's 'eye' to obtain an image that looks like you are at their level, giving a more personal view of the subject you are trying to photograph.

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Tip 7:  Light should be behind you or to the side, avoiding direct sunshine. The best times to shoot are dawn and dusk - all adding to a beautiful image with very strong composition.

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Tip 8: Try not to overcomplicate your photography when you're composing your images. It's easy to just enjoy what you are witnessing instead of thinking like a photographer.  This can result in messy shots, full of distractions, with no focal point forcing the viewer's eye to wander.  By just taking time to consider your subject and its environment you'll find your photography will improve and the term "less is more" will become very apparent to you.

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Tip 9: Enjoy your subject first and foremost.

Within my own work I love to capture the subject's character and emotion through strong, simple and powerful composition.  Be it something which appears small in the frame or a close up image, wide-angle or long lens, having space through good composition will transform the end result.

 

Visit Craig's wildlife photography website here and for more professional hints and tips, follow Craig on Facebook and Twitter.

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