What does this beautiful Celebes crested macaque have to do with landscape composition? How would you think about the composition here regarding the principles introduced in this series?

Canon 5D4, Canon 16-35mm F2.8
27mm | F2.8 | 1/100 sec | ISO 800
Tangkoko NP, Sulawesi Island, Indonesia

So far, in my landscape photography series, I've talked about compositional elements, their weights and how to use their properties to balance the composition by imagining a balance of torques around the middle axis of an image. I also discussed balancing negative space, the perception of subject direction, and the often-overlooked importance I reserve for the separation of elements.

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I then discussed the perception of depth and how to use sky in a landscape image, and finally, how to connect the elements in a way that makes sense. I suggested one idea to guide the photographer when composing in the field and showed how widely known photographic techniques are, in fact, private cases of the framework I explored in the articles.

"My good friend Ian Plant always says, 'If you can shoot landscape, you can shoot anything.'"

My good friend Ian Plant always says, "If you can shoot landscape, you can shoot anything." I agree because composition takes the highest importance in landscape photography compared to other genres. If you don't have a good composition when shooting landscape, you have achieved nothing. This isn't necessarily true in street photography, where what's happening in the frame is most important, even more than composition.

As an addendum to the series, I'd like to show in this final article that the ideas I presented can be extended beyond landscape photography. This makes a lot of sense since, except for the article about sky, nothing I wrote talks about landscape elements exclusively. I could have called this series 'About Composition' as well. I only chose landscape because I'm most knowledgeable and experienced in this area, so to give the series the last stroke of validity and to persuade you of its merit, let's look at a couple of photographic fields and discuss what principles apply to them, especially. I have added a lot of examples - I urge you to examine the images and think to yourself how what you've learned in this series reflects in what you see.

A female yellow-cheeked gibbon perched high up in the trees at sunrise. What would you say about the composition here compared to the landscape compositions you're used to seeing in this series? Specifically, how would you treat the main compositional mass if it weren't an animal but a non-living subject such as a flower?

Canon 5D4, Sigma 150-600mm
421mm | 1/1000sec | F6.3 | ISO 3200
Cat Tien NP, Vietnam

A strawberry poison dart frog in the jungles of Panama. How well did I do balancing the compositional masses and minding subject direction?

Work dogs being gathered to shelter during a powerful snow blizzard. A nice example for balancing compositional masses around the middle axis, but one may ask - isn't this a landscape shot?

Canon 5D4, Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6
200mm | F8 | 1/800 sec | ISO200
Uummannaq, Greenland

Composition in Wildlife Photography

Wildlife may be the closest genre to landscape, in essence, and in the considerations one takes to produce a shot. The animal you are shooting is situated in nature, where everything else is basically landscape, and thus, the ideas governing landscape composition are very much valid here.

When it comes to animal subjects, the prominence of the mass associated with that subject is almost always very large. An animal is almost always the center of importance in a wildlife shot, even if it isn't very large in the frame, and thus requires everything that a landscape subject of large prominence would require, and more: a large amount of negative space, for starters, and then a special consideration of subject direction (since we have a clear direction in which the animal is looking). Separation is also critical - the animal should not overlap other elements in a disturbing way.

A massive male Komodo dragon. Aside from the subject direction, which is pretty clear, I think the most important aspect of this composition is the separation of elements. The dragon's head (the main focus of the image) is situated in the opening between the trees in the background, which contributes to depth perception and helps us avoid tension.

Canon 5D4, Sigma 150-600mm
226mm | 1/640 sec | F5.6 | ISO 1600
Komodo Island, Indonesia

A cheeky baby orangutan peeks while hanging upside down while holding onto its mother. How would you analyze this composition in terms of balance between compositional masses?

Canon 5D4, Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6
166mm | 5.6, | 1/160 sec | ISO 3200
Gunung Leuser NP, Sumatra, Indonesia

This gorgeous Indri Indri lemur did its best to challenge me regarding subject direction, as its face was pointing in the opposite direction to its body!

Canon 5D4, Sigma 150-600mm
516mm |1/500 sec | F6.3 | ISO 1600
Andasibe, Madagascar

Framing is an idea that's utilized in wildlife photography much more often than in landscape (and produces a stronger effect) since animals tend to position themselves in natural frames. The clever photographer also knows how to position himself to use existing natural elements to frame a subject by juxtaposing these elements with the animal.

A female Sumatran orangutan and her baby. The animal was hanging from a branch that supplied a perfect frame.

Canon 5D4, Tamron 24-70mm F2.8
45mm | 1/200 sec | F2.8 | ISO 1600
Gunung Leuser NP, Sumatra, Indonesia

A Decken's Sifaka perched on a Y-shaped branch.

Canon 5D4, Sigma 150-600mm
275mm | 1/640 sec | F5.6 | ISO400
Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar

It took a lot of work and sweat to perfectly frame this golden bamboo lemur in a heart-shaped frame of leaves.

Canon 5D4, Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6
300mm | 1/250 sec | F5.6 | ISO 2000
Ranomafana, Madagascar

In wildlife photography, if the animal (or animals) serving as the main subject is interesting enough, it can, admittedly, dampen the need for a proper composition. Still, the best wildlife images are those that show the animal in its natural surroundings and include interesting elements from its habitat. Better yet, if the animal is interacting with its surroundings.

A beautiful red-shanked Douc feeding in a fig tree - the source of its favorite food.

Canon 5D4, Sigma 150-600mm
283 mm | 1/400 sec | F5.6 | ISO1600
Son Tra peninsula, Vietnam

An adult male Bornean orangutan showing off a power pose as it's taking a break from traversing the canopy. How did the pose contribute to the overall composition? Hint: lines.

Canon 5D4, Canon 70-300mm F4-5.6
150mm | 1/400 sec | F6.3 | ISO 800
Tanjung Puting NP, Kalimantan, Indonesia

A male yellow-checked gibbon leaping between tree branches high in the canopy.

Canon 5D4, Sigma 150-600mm
600 mm | 1/1000 sec | F6.3 | ISO1600
Cat Tien NP, Vietnam

Street and Portrait Photography

I'm not much of a people photographer, but I have done a bit of it during my travels. While the photographic ideas and principles here are further away from landscape photography, the framework of thought still very much applies. For me personally, the compositional ideas I presented in this series are very much present when shooting people.

Separation of elements is applied here by way of lighting.
How do the different elements counterbalance each other in this image?

Thank you for staying with me throughout this long series. I hope it's been helpful, and I hope that it made you think about composition differently. and take a moment before you click the shutter to ensure the subjects are in place and nicely separated!

Erez Marom is a professional nature photographer, photography guide and traveller based in Israel. You can follow Erez's work on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to his mailing list for updates and to his YouTube channel.

If you'd like to experience and shoot some of the world's most fascinating landscapes with Erez as your guide, take a look at his unique photography workshops in Svalbard, Greenland, Madagascar, the Lofoten Islands, Namibia and Vietnam.

Erez also offers video tutorials discussing his images and explaining how he achieved them.

More in The Landscape Composition Series:

Selected Articles by Erez Marom: