Subject Separation in Wildlife Photography

Gerry van der Walt All Authors, Gerry Leave a Comment

Subject separation is a very worthwhile skill to keep in mind when photographing wildlife.

Our cameras, fancy and expensive as they are, takes our three dimensional world and renders them into a two dimensional scene which we then present to our viewers.  The camera does not know what you are photographing and how you want to present it in your final frame so it is up to you to make sure you check that the story you want to tell is as pure and simple as possible.

There are two ways in which you can separate subjects in a frame:

  • Move, or wait for the subjects to move
  • Use a shallow depth of field to separate a give subject from the background.
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In this video I share some thoughts on the why and how of separating subjects in the frame.

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Here are the images I discuss in the video.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Bad subject separation.  The giraffe’s head is ‘connected’ to the tree.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Much better separation between the subjects and my viewer can see them as separate elements in the frame.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

Not ideal separation as the back hyena ‘connects’ with the front one.  If his face was visible the image would have been much stronger.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

If the lionesses in the frame moved so that I could have all their faces separated the images would have been much much stronger.  Same goes for the two cubs in the middle of the frame.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

A shallow depth of field has separated the Zebra in from the herd making him stand out and the focus of my story.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

A chaotic scene is separated – again using depth of field – into more ‘readable’ parts making more sense of my story.

Gerry van der Walt - Wildlife Photography

In a scene like this the story revolves around the herd and not a single individual so subject separation does not play a big part.

Subject separation is not a difficult thing to wrap your head around and will just take a little bit of practise, and a quick scan around your frame before clicking the shutter, in order to get it right and tell stronger stories in your wildlife images.

Have a great weekend and we’ll look at another composition video tip next week Friday!

Until next time.

Gerry van der Walt 

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