I have seen many amazing wildlife photos in recent years all over the internet. To stand out in this ‘noise’ you need to have a spectacular subject or have travelled to exotic destinations.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from starting as a wildlife photographer. To set yourself up ahead of the mass with the wildlife in your country is to follow simple rules. There are lots of photography rules, for example, the rule of thirds or the exposure triangle. The rules I refer to is not camera technical rules such as rule of thirds, etc. but more how to draw attention to your image.
I think a very important rule is if the head of the animal is facing you, to focus on the dominant eye. I have found that this draws the observer into the image and to the subject. This is especially true if you capture the animal as a ‘portrait’.
Lace Monitor - Varanus variusFocus on the eye. Keep the shot clean. Tell a story
Another aspect of a good photo is to have no distractions from the main focus. You might have come across photos of a beautiful flower, a bird or a person but your eyes were distracted by a very bright window, a colourful chair or similar. That object took your attention right away and you almost forgot to look at the main subject. It is a good idea to keep your surroundings in your peripheral and change your position slightly or if needed altogether. Often, you have enough time to go onto your knees, move a step or zoom in a bit to take the distraction out of the frame. If all fails and you couldn’t do it in the field, try to crop the distraction out.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo - Macropus giganteuFocus on the eye, but the bright objects (red circles) draw your attention away from the kangaroo. Also the power poles in the background are distracting, would have been better shot from a different angle.
That said, don’t get rid of anything helping to tell the story. Sometimes it is necessary to have that chair in the frame if it helps to showcase that the animal was captured in your suburb or backyard.
You can fix smaller distraction problems in post-processing, by cropping it out or to clone it out. That said, it is easier to change position or the angle than to clean it up afterwards. It may take you a little while to get used to it but practice will ingrain it and it will become second nature.
So keep this simple rule in mind and happy hunting.