Why Small Details Made The Most Impact In Wildlife Photography

Have you ever taken a photo that you really liked, but somehow it didn't do well in FB, IG, and when you submit to contests, it didn't make the cut. And then you saw some similar photos actually winning, and you were like, what the heck, mine is so much better. This is so unfair...
I know how it felt. Because I've been there.
Check out this photo I took.

Photo #1.
Incoming bear. Great light. Great eye contact. I followed everything I was taught from books.

But nope. Nothing from contest or publication or anything.

I wondered what was missing... Why...

It would take me a long time to realize that for visual art, its all about the small details.

When I took photo #1, I was only looking at the bear and ignored everything else. I ignored the fact that
1. There is a dark line cutting behind the head of the bear
2. More dark and bright lines cutting thru
3. A ugly dark patch of shadow on the face
4. A bright area and a line pulling me away from the bear
5. The brightest part of the bear was pulling my eyes away from the face of the bear

Photo #2
Then this photo I took won the Grand Prize of Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International and was published as the cover of Alaska Magazine and won many other accolades.

Now look at photo #1 again.

Photo #1

If I had the same skill now, I would have made a few changes to where I was, and my angle, and all the minor issues would have been solved.

It's tough to accept the reality because photo #1 was actually a decent photo.

But to me, it is a non-photo because of the deadly mistakes. Decent photos are dime a dozen on the internet.

It just revealed to the viewers that the photographer has no idea about light, composition, foreground, background, and does not pay any attention to details as a visual art.

Some of you asked me, "So do I need to try to just get a clean foreground and background?"

That's furthest from the truth. It's all about knowing what elements in foreground and background can help tell the story and lead the viewer's eyes to the story of the photo.

With the recent development of camera technology, lighter weight of lenses, it created a huge opportunity for photographers to shorten the time to master this craft.

Now getting an action shot is easy because of eye tracking AF. So what's important is creativity and attention to details in the next few years.

If you are up for a challenge to up your game in photography, you are invited to my 2-hour free masterclass this coming Sunday at 11am Pacific Time.

I am announcing to my newsletter subscribers first and I only have 500 spots. So register ASAP.


To make it more interactive, you can submit a photo to me here:


Depending on the time, I will pick a few to do photo critique during the masterclass and give you suggestions to improve. But I probably can't critique all.

In the masterclass, I will share 3 secrets:
1. How to take great shots with powerful impact consistently even if you can't travel much
2. How to know the best camera settings and post processing even if you are not a professional or knows any editing softwares
3. Why you don't need lots of followers to make a huge impact and spread your art and message

I will also share some of the most common mistakes I see as an invited judge for several international photo contests.

There will be NO replay because I want to make it interactive and respect to those who actually attend live.

Look forward to seeing you there.

Also, I will be leading a small group of photographers to Alaska this coming September to teach them exactly that: How to take stunning photos without making the common mistakes. I usually only open the tour to my students but there's one spot open now. Details here:
Please email me at tinmanlee@gmail.com or reply here as soon as possible if you are interested or have any questions.
Tin Man
P.S. I received quite a few angry emails about my pursuit for the mastery of photography. I just smiled. To me it's like sushi. What's the difference between a sushi you can buy from a restaurant in a strip mall, vs the best sushi in the world? The difference can be small, but that's where the meaning is. I highly recommend the movie "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" which deeply moved me. Some of the ideas from the movie are "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" which many said the ori

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.