(click on the image to see larger version)
We have established that placing the subject in the center of the frame is rarely the best option. For the sake of argument, lets say we agree that the rule of thirds offers the best starting point when deciding where to place the subject within the frame. Where do we go from there? The rule of thirds gives us four points of power with which to work. Which is the best one?
The answer depends on your subject and how it is positioned in the frame. With wildlife, and people, the main item of concern is which way the animal is facing. Given the choice, it is more effective to place an animal with extra space in front rather then behind. Take the image above. The mongoose is taking in the beautiful light of sunset while look off to the left. For placement, I have three choices:
Option 1: Put the mongoose in the center. This is a common choice for many photographers, but produces the least appealing results. Lets stick with the rule of thirds and forget about the center.
Option 2: Put the mongoose on a point of power on the left side of the frame. This will place the mongoose near the edge of the frame on the side he is looking. All of the empty space in the photo will be behind the mongoose rather then in front of it, making the image feel crowded. Viewers will subconsciously want to know what they are missing. Why is he looking over there? What does he see that I don’t? Why didn’t this @#$#% photographer show me what I want is over there? Putting the mongoose on the left side of the frame will look like you made a mistake.
Option 3: Put the mongoose on a point of power on the right side of the frame. This is the correct choice. How do you know? It will be obvious when the stars align, the sun shines down on the mongoose, and triumphant music begins to play……OK, maybe not. By placing the mongoose with space in front of him, we give the viewer the opportunity to see the world through the mongoose’s eyes and we want to see what he sees. Ironically, it doesn’t really matter that nothing is there, it just feels right.
The image of the dwarf mongoose was captured while on safari with my family in Tarangire National Park, Tanzania. The image was taken using a Canon 1D mark 2, 500mm IS lens with a 1.4 teleconverter, at 400 ISO. The image was shot from a vehicle and the lens was supported on a beanbag.