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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Steel

Photo review - "The Guardian"

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

Photo review; where I break down why an image works, or how it could be improved. This will be a place where I can give an in depth breakdown of not only my images but also anyone's photographs that they would like reviewed. You can share your images by emailing them to me at if you would like to be included in my next Photo review.

The first review is of my image "The Guardian". One of my favourite images from 2017 which has recently received a Bronze Award in the Best Portrait category of the Bird Photographer of the Year.

I will be breaking down the image into three categories; Emotive, Technical and Editing. Assessing each area and how they come together to create an image that not only tells a story but is also aesthetically appealing.


A southern white rhino grazing unaware of the bounty on its head, as a western cattle egret searches for insects flushed from the grass. This is a truly commensal relationship ( a relationship between individuals of two species in which one species obtains food or other benefits from the other without either harming or benefiting the latter). The rhino is indifferent to the presence of the bird, while the egret benefits from the rhino’s movement and foraging: it unwittingly disturbs insects concealed in the grass.

For me, the image is such an emotive depiction of a constant battle that is being fought throughout Africa; the poaching of our Rhinos. As a whole the image is juxtaposition between dark and light, hope and uncertainty.

The dark areas of the image are interrupted by the bright white bird (while it is not a white dove, I do believe it gives that sense of peace and forgiveness). This contrast is both visually striking while also evoking emotional sentiment. While the Cattle Egret takes center stage the Rhino can be see fading into the background, indicative of the species’ rapid decline.


Instantly when looking at the image, your eye is drawn into the lightest sections, in this case it is the bird. as your eye relaxes it moves across to the subtle textures of the rhino behind. Its important to remember that when composing an image, use the lights to lead your eye into the important areas of the image. A border of black also surrounds the bird, creating an interesting and aesthetically appealing archway around it.

The image is a prime example of how the rule of 3rds can work as a great composition. The bird is in the right 3rd and looks across the frame, giving your eye space to relax and move across the image.

Textures and contrasts add extra character to the image. The smooth bright bird emphasizes the rough dark skin of the rhino, adding to that emotive contrast between the subjects.


I often emphasis using editing as a tool to highlight the good qualities of an image. This image is no different. Adding extra contrast was the key to create a more visually appealing image. Toning down the highlights to create detail and increasing the dark sections of the image to give it that extra punch.

Other than that simply increasing the yellows of the egrets bill and de-saturating the rhino really makes the colour "pop" out of the screen or page.

Please let me know if you enjoyed reading my insight into this image. I am looking to add a video section to my website going forward if people would like to see more of a break down of how to properly edit their images, as well as more photo reviews. If you would like to be included in my monthly mailing list, feel free to fill in the form on the blog section of my website. This image is available for print, and looks amazing on premium paper (even if I say so myself)! If you are interested in a print feel free to email me at

Thanks for reading

all the best - William


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