Choosing the Shot: The Devil is in the Detail

Andrew Beck All Authors, Andrew Leave a Comment

For many photographers, the hardest part of their workflow comes down to choosing the images that will “make it through to the next round” for editing purposes. This is a crucial part of any digital workflow, and being able to cull the 40 or so images from that awesome cheetah sighting you witnessed down to a handful of images can be a tough process.

In this series of blog posts, I will run through some of the criteria that I like to use when working through and selecting my best images from sightings. On Tuesday I touched on selecting only images which you are sure are sharp and in focus. Today, I will be taking it one step further as we start to look at images in more detail.

Have a look at these three images that were taken during last years Masai Mara Photographic Safari using a 600mm lens (take note of the focal length as I will touch on this a bit later):

Andrew Beck - Choosing your shot detail

Image 1

Andrew Beck - Choosing your shot detail

Image 2

Andrew Beck - Choosing your shot detail

Image 3

All are great images and ones that I have dreamed about capturing for years! Emotions aside, take another look at the three images. Take special notice of the positioning of the head and ears as well as the catchlights in the eyes of the cheetah…Now, which of these three images would you choose as your keeper?

I chose Image 3 and this is why:

  • Baring in mind that this was shot with a 600mm lens, I really didn’t have too much room to play with composition (to be honest I was glad that I was able to fit the entire animal in the frame!). Image 1 has the cheetah staring at the edge of the frame. Image 2 is better with a more direct stare, but the image doesn’t quite feel balanced to me. Image 3 on the other-hand has the subject staring off to the right into what little space is available in the frame.


  • In Image 1, the position of one of the ears is actually hidden behind the head of the cheetah – not ideal for an animal portrait. The position of the ears in Image 2 and 3 is much better and either of these images would have worked in this instance.


  • Take another look at the 3 images, paying special attention to the eyes.  Notice how the eyes are flat and hidden in image 1? Then, as the cheetah turns its head slightly in Image 2, we see the small white highlights (catchlights) in the eyes. In Image 3, the head is turned directly into the light, bringing the amber eyes to life and making the catchlights even more noticeable.
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Andrew Beck - Choosing your shot detail

So there you have it. 3 Images that were shot within seconds of one-another that looked very similar before we started to look deeper into the details of each one.

All of the points mentioned in this analysis (ear position, composition, catchlights in the eyes) are variables that you can also evaluate before even capturing an image. Pay attention to the details and choose your shot carefully.

I’ll be back next week week with some more tips on selecting only your best wildlife images.

Andrew Beck

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Comments 0

  1. Terry in Indiana, USA

    What a timely post for me! We just returned yesterday from a 3-week trip to Kenya, which included 2 short safaris, one at Tsavo and one at the Mara. I’m sitting down at the computer getting ready to tackle the arduous task of whittling down my thousands of photos to a manageable size, an overwhelming task. Thank you for your helpful hints! (We also had an awesome cheetah sighting as we were leaving the Mara! GORGEOUS animals!!!)

  2. Andrew Beck

    Hi Terry

    Thanks so much for the positive feedback. I will be posting more of these sorts of tips on the blog this week as well so keep an eye out for them.

    Working through your images and putting together a portfolio of only the best requires a lot of time and a certain amount of “self criticism” in order to put together a collection of only the best images.

    Good luck and please feel free to share your images with us on our Facebook page!

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  6. Mac McMillen

    Excellent! I instinctually thought image 3 was the best of the three images, and your explanation told me why! Thanks!


    1. Andrew

      Thanks for the comment Mac, its funny how quite often our initial instinct is the right one even after looking at an image in finer detail!

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