With over 14 years’ experience as a wildlife photographer in some of the harshest and most inaccessible parts of the world, Alex Jones has a hard-won knowledge of how to capture that one winning shot. Here, he lays out those rules for all photographers to use (and some of them may surprise you).
1 – Battle boring
In our super connected world, creating images that surprise and excite people is more difficult than ever. But this can also be a good thing. Alex’s photographs frequently break common rules of composition, often playing with colour and light, creating images that aren’t always immediately obvious. Battling boring means not being afraid to experiment. Not every experiment will work, but that’s a great way to learn.
2 – Focus on the essence of your subject
Alex’s photography is the result of close examination of animals in their natural environment, drawing on what he calls “a considerable amount of behavioural research and predictive analysis.” In other words, do your homework. Get to know the animals that you’re hoping to capture. Understand their essence, their behaviour, what makes them tick.
3 – Leave the viewers to fill in the blanks
True, a picture tells a thousand words, but a thousand words still isn’t the whole story. Don’t be too concerned about capturing everything. Focus on the most engaging details – that scar on a lion’s eye, the elephant’s damaged tusk, the shape of a tiger’s back when it stretches. And let the viewer’s imagination do the rest.
4 – Think about what you’ve already seen, and veer away
In essence, do something different. Follow the rules above and you’re already half way to doing this.
5 – Find a way to establish scale
So often, the wonder of the wild world is in its sheer scale. Capturing this makes an image. Whether it’s a reflection in an eye, a high soaring bird edging into the frame, a death-defying foreshortened view from a high tree branch, try to find that detail in the image that pulls the viewer into the experience.
6 – Lose the telephoto
Alex is a strong proponent of getting up close and personal with his subjects. In a safe way of course! Often shooting from inside hides and cages, or using a remote-control camera, he believes photographers all over the world need to throw away their telephoto lenses. He explains: “The relationship between photographer and subject diminishes the longer the telephoto.”
7 – Know when to break the rules
Wildlife photography is, by its very nature, unpredictable. Any number of things can disrupt a shoot from weather to human interference and of course the animals themselves. As a result, rules often need to be broken. Some of Alex’s favourite shots were some of the most unexpected.
8 – Create images that invite second (and third, and fourth) looks
Notice those details that a less trained eye might not pick up on straight away. Focus on the less obvious. And don’t be afraid to experiment with style and composition. This way, you’ll bring your viewer back to the image time and time again. Read more about animals Alex has photographed in the wild on the blog.