EYES AND THE RULE OF THIRDS
Composing a wildlife or portrait photo can feel a bit like a balancing act. You know you need to allow some space around the subject, otherwise it seems like it is being cramped into a space that is too small. But how much space is too much? Well, there is no right or wrong answer to that. You can have your subject fill most of the frame, or – as with my Scarlet Honeyeater image – it might only be a very small part of a much larger image. The trick is to get the balance right, and the good old Rule of Thirds is a great place to start.
When your subject fills most of the frame, like my kangaroo here, getting the eyes close to the top line of the rule of thirds is a good guide. This allows for what we call ‘headroom.’ If the eyes are a third from the top of the frame, there should be enough space so that the top of the head isn’t squished against the edge of the photo.
When your subject is a smaller feature (i.e. a lot more space around the subject), getting the eyes close to the intersecting point of the rule of thirds can give the photo the balance it needs. The subject is not in the middle of the photo (which can look odd), nor is it too far over to one side or the other to begin to look like wasted space.
Finally it is usually a good idea to have your subject facing toward the centre of the shot. This can be done by the angle of the entire body (like my frog) or by a simple tilt of the head (my portrait of Sarah). This engages the viewer with what is going on in that extra space, making it seem like an important feature of the composition and not just empty space.
Like all rules, this one is ‘made to be broken.’ So you will find plenty of great photography that takes a different approach to composition. But if you have a good animal/portrait opportunity and you are struggling with composition, this is a great place to start.