Composition Corner | Beautiful Wildlife Closeups

Whether you’re in the middle of the savanna in Kenya or submerged in the deep rainforests of Costa Rica, there will be close-up shots of wildlife that you want to get right the first time.

Just because an animal is close, allowing you to get a crisp, well-lit and beautifully focused shot, doesn’t mean that you should ignore basic composition guidelines.

While on safari in Kenya, I took this photo of an Agama lizard – with a macro lens. This thing was close! It was in great light, not moving, not scared, and very close. When shooting, sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about anything but the fact that you are so astonishingly close to a spectacular animal. It’s always best to try and compose the shot within the camera, but if you must, always shoot a little farther away, thus allowing you to crop in order to create your perfect composition in post-processing software.

wildlife photo composition juxtaposition of lines

The first thing to pay attention to in the above photo is the interesting juxtaposition of vectors (lines) in the photo. You have the head angled to the right, eye facing back, and front leg facing forward. It creates a bit of tension in the photo, creating a certain curiosity in the viewer.

lizard photo composition golden ratio

However the more important overlay is the golden ratio or Fibonacci spiral. As mentioned in the full composition page, there is definite mathematics involved in aesthetics. In the above photo, the main features of the animal are fully contained within the spiral. The focal point is then centered squarely on the eye and head – exactly where the spiral concentrates.

So, as you can see, basic tenets of composition are just as critical in macro photography as they are in big telephoto, landscape, or any other type of photography out there. While rules are always meant to be broken, oftentimes you will find the best photos adhere in one way or another to tried and true compositional rules.

Go forward and give it a shot,


Agama lizard photo (c) Court Whelan