A snapshot shows the world what your camera sees, but a thoughtfully composed photograph shows the world what you see. While composition can be complex, several basic strategies arise when making pictures of natural subjects. Here are five such techniques for powerful image-making. Photos and text by Ian Plant
4.Emphasize your subject.
Red howler monkey, Tambopata National Reserve, Peru: A 500mm f/4L Canon EF tele with 1.4x Canon EF Extender III was shot wide open for shallow depth of field. Plant’s exposure: 1/200 sec, ISO 800, on his tripod-mounted EOS 5D Mark III.
Use visual elements to direct your viewer’s attention to what’s important. Framing is one effective tool for simplifying and focusing interest. Examples include arcing tree branches, barn windows, and natural arches, but frames can also be made by arranging multiple visual elements around a subject. Sometimes it works best if there is an element of contrast between the frame and the subject—silhouetted trees around a sunlit mountain peak, for example.
Another way to draw attention to your primary subject is through the use of light: spotlighting, or a dose of brightness behind your subject, can focus the viewer. For this image, I selected a position that framed the monkey with a pattern of out-of-focus leaves lit by the setting sun. A hint of that light on the monkey also helps focus viewers’ attention.