|Limpkin with Chick|
|Great Horned Owls|
To me the only real "rule" in composition is SEEing. Everything else is a guideline that is usually helpful, even if the guideline doesn't always apply. The "rule of thirds" is that kind of rule. Imagine drawing a tic-tac-toe grid on your viewfinder or preview screen (some cameras will even let you see it if you turn the option on). The rule of thirds states that your composition will usually seem more pleasing if you place what interests you on a line or intersection of the tic-tac-toe grid. It doesn't have to be exact, but the grid can help you avoid centered (or bulls-eyed) compositions. My interest in the image above was in the owl that was facing me, so I placed his face near the intersection of the lines tic-tac-toe grid.
Lines and Curves
|American Avocets in a "Curve"|
|Lesser Scaup in a Curve|
|Least Tern with Posts making a Diagonal Line|
|Forster's Tern with Background Elements|
Often you do not want the bird to be all by itself. You may want to include some of the other birds keeping your subject company. Or you may want to include elements of the bird's surroundings. When you do, you can be intentional about how you arrange these elements to make a pleasing composition. Where you stand, or whether you stand or sit or lay on the ground can all impact your composition and the arrangement of the elements of your image.
If at all possible photograph your subjects as close to eye level as possible. Crouch down on your knees or even your belly if you can. But the more you can get on the level of the bird, the more intimate your portrait will seem.
Framing and Cropping
Since birds often stay far away and they don't make 2000mm lenses for all of us to buy, we have to make due with cropping. When I know I'm going to be cropping an image significantly, I frequently will put the subject dead in the center of the frame. Then I'll frame my shot by cropping the image in my computer. This lets me use the center focusing point on my camera, and it gives me options for framing in the computer. Do I want the bird on the left side of the frame or the right? Near the top or near the bottom? I can decide on one (or two or three) of these options when I'm sitting at my computer. In these two Bachman's Sparrow images, I put the sparrow dead center in the frame and the cropped each photo match the position of the sparrows head, so that the sparrow would always be looking into the frame.
Sometimes this isn't an option. The Great Blue Heron below was so close I had to back up to get all him in the frame. So I had to make sure I the heron framed as I wanted it because I wouldn't have the option of changing it later.
|Great Blue Heron|