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Photographing Animals in Groups

Successfully making images that include more than one animal can be a challenging task - the subjects' posture and orientation, lighting, focus, composition, and all the other factors involved in capturing the perfect wildlife portrait are rendered significantly more complex with each additional animal in the frame. But the results can be very impressive, and it pays to do some pre-visualization before your safari, and give thought to how you will take advantage of Africa's abundance of wildlife.


Keep it Clean

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Frame the image in such a way as to eliminate clutter and capture the essence of the scene. This may mean focusing on a subgroup within the greater herd, and it may be best achieved by cropping in post-editing. Typically, avoid tight clusters where animals obscure each other and, where practical, give each individual enough space to be identifiable. Try to avoid cutting animals in half at the edges of the scene.



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Odd Numbers Work Best

For smaller groupings, the rule of thumb is that an odd number of subjects (3, 5, 7) will carry more visual interest because the viewer is less easily able to fracture and compartmentalize the image. Not a hard-and-fast rule, but a good guideline when portraying groups of animals (and most other subjects).




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Highlight Interaction

Few images of wildlife are more powerful than those displaying behavior, and this is perhaps best exemplified by the interaction between individuals. This will typically mean focusing on and isolating a small subset within the larger group.



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Identify the Subject

Through light, focus, exposure, and composition guide the viewer towards the image's focal point. Most group shots are enhanced by keying on a leading subject, complemented by a supporting cast in complementary poses, or engaged in similar behavior.



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Look For Patterns

As an element of image design, patterns create a sense of rhythm and harmony, and can add visual interest even to relatively mundane subjects. Patterns are abundant in nature, it just takes a little practice and attentiveness to spot them. Zebras, with their unique striped hides, are the ultimate "pattern subjects".





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Break the Pattern!

If patterns create rhythm and harmony, nothing disrupts this and captures one's attention better than an individual standing out from the herd! [Image courtesy of Jack's Camp]



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