What Makes an Impactful Wildlife Image?

What Makes an Impactful Wildlife Image?

By: Kevin Allen Pepper

There is a mental checklist that I go through when I am out taking wildlife images. I am constantly running through the following questions in my mind…

How is the animal or subject framed in my photo?

Does the animal have room to move, or is it looking into the negative space of the image?

Is there anything in my image that obstructs the subject? If yes, do I need to move to get a more impactful image?

Are the animals eyes visible?

Does the animal or subject look relaxed and natural or distressed?

But the most important two questions in my opinion are, “Did I create a connection between the subject and myself”, and “did I tell a story with the image”?

In regards to telling a story… While an image can convey a different story to different people, I still think it’s important to attempt to create a visual understanding of what was happening at the time of the photo.

Let’s look at an image I took where I felt like I conveyed telling a story.

The image here is of a Bald Eagle that had migrated along with thousands of others for the annual salmon run in the Fraser River in British Columbia, Canada. I had taken hundreds of photos of bald eagles in flight, but this photo stood out for a couple reasons. (1) I captured the eye with catch light, (2) it had just landed beside a salmon carcass which put context into why I was photographing eagles and (3) the eagle’s body position was different that a normal bird in flight or a bird standing on a sand bar… it was an interesting pose.

In regards to creating a connection… the best way is to capture eye contact between me and the subject.

Let’s look at an image I took where I felt like I created a connection.

I think this photo speaks for itself. There is undeniable direct eye contact between the Canada Lynx and the viewer and the point of view is at such an angle that we are looking at the apex predator at his level. If I was standing versus lying in the snow the impact and connection would not have been as powerful.