The "Perfect" Photograph


Let’s start by getting one thing out of the way, and that is that wildlife photography, like all other forms of art, is subjective. What may seem perfect to one may not be perfect to another. Too often we get lost talking about the best camera settings, or the perfect exposure, or what your aperture should be… when in actual fact these things are all ancillary when it comes to the true meaning of wildlife photography. So, I am not going to discuss camera settings or framing and composition, there are enough articles that discuss those in detail. I want to talk about what makes a perfect wildlife photograph, and I strongly believe it’s not in the “settings”.

Whenever I look at some of my favorite images, I don’t ever remember the camera settings, what I do remember is the moment I captured that image, the story behind the image and the way I felt at that time. To me these are the elements that make an image perfect, certainly not the gear or camera settings. At its essence, wildlife photography has two main objectives, to capture a moment… a moment in time in our planet’s natural sphere that will never and could never be replicated and to create a connection or feeling toward that moment. So therefore, perfection lies not in the composition of the image itself but rather in the composition of the feeling created by an image, the connection to a moment and the longing to be there.  So, before you focus on what gear to carry and what camera settings to study to get that “perfect shot”, I want you to remember that wildlife photography is so much more than the settings on your camera or having the best gear in your bag. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the basic foundations that help create a photograph should be ignored, because the fact remains that the settings on your camera are tools that help you capture the moment. What I am saying is that these things are secondary to one of the most fundamental qualities of being a wildlife photographer, and that is that one must have an unconditional love for wildlife and an obsessive desire to connect with nature on a deeper level. You must be able to translate the love you have for wildlife into every frame you compose and you must be able to convey this love to the viewer of your image. There is not camera setting or piece of gear that will do this for you, it must come from the feeling you get while being out in nature and your desire to share this feeling with others.

Faizel Ismail