At Fin & Field we hear a lot of people complain about their photos. They say things like “that doesn’t do it justice” or “you just had to be there”. We have looked at countless hunting photos and it couldn’t be more clear that most of us can improve our photography skills greatly. The good news is that taking better photos won’t require you to go sit in a classroom and learn about ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and digital editing. Keeping a few critical principles in mind will get you photos you can be proud of.
First, great hunting photos are a tribute to the entire day and the experience you had. They show off the terrain you were immersed in and the respect you have for the animal. Most photos will feature a single hunter, but if you were hunting with a guide or young hunter including them in the photo can also help the photo to immortalize that specific hunt. Now on to the tips!
It’s not the camera
Having a camera is obviously the most important part. Without one you won’t even be able to take an average photo, much less a great one. What camera to bring is becoming less important all the time. Consider where you hunt, what you have room for, and what features you want. Luckily, with the huge leaps made in digital photography, bringing along quality gear is easier than ever.
Most of the cell phones that we all carry have a good camera, just make sure to clean the lense with a clean cotton shirt or lens wipe. A small rugged point-and-shoot camera will fit in just about any pocket and take great pictures. A DSLR will give you more options for manual settings and perform better in low light. The DSLR is a great choice if you intend to make large prints or use the photos in print, but it is the bulkiest option. Whatever you choose make sure you are comfortable with the operation. At a minimum make sure you know how to set the camera to AUTO. If you will be adjusting any camera or lens setting, spend some time practicing!
The bottom line is, any camera you bring will take amazing photos as long as you are mindful of a few details.
Blue sky, green fields, and thick timber landscapes are all part of the reason we hunt. We all share a passion for being outside and in nature. If you make the effort to photograph an animal don’t photograph it in a truck or in your driveway. Composition has a huge impact on the quality of your image, here are some tips.
- Pick scenery that is natural habitat for that animal. This should be easy and will often simply be where the animal fell.
- If possible, silhouette the head and or antlers of the animal against the skyline. Being on a small rise can make that easier. If you aren’t able to capture the skyline just make sure the scene behind you is as neutral and distraction free as possible.
- Consider where the hunter will be, the best place for the hunter is often next to the animal rather than behind it. If behind the animal, stay low so that you don’t overshadow your trophy. As a show of respect you should never sit on the animal.
- Don’t be too wide or narrow with your framing. Capture some of the natural surrounding but focus primarily on the hunter and the trophy.
- Low angles are better. Keep the lens at or below eye level with the hunter.
- The sun should be behind the camera. Chose sunrise or sunset for the best light. Cloudy days are great for photos too but too much direct sun can make for harsh shadows. Use the camera flash on a sunny day to light up the shadows as best you can.
Look your best
Once you make your decisions about composition, take a second to get yourself ready.
- We love our hats and sunglasses, but they are practically a disguise! When posing with your trophy take off your sunglasses and tip your hat up a little bit or remove it.
- If it is hot or cold out you may have some other articles of clothing to deal with. If you have a face mask or neck gaiter it should be pulled down all the way or removed.
- Wear sunscreen, in addition to being an important for your safety and health you don’t want a sunburn in your photo.
Pose your trophy
With a little care, your trophy can also look its best. Posing your trophy is about showing it off in the most natural and respectful way possible.
- Pose the animal in a natural state such as a bedding pose. This might mean tucking the legs, propping the torso upright, and positioning the tail.
- Clean up the areas visible to the camera. Wipe up dirt and blood from anywhere visible to the camera. Also, tuck the tongue back in the mouth. A clean natural looking animal not only looks better but is a show of respect.
- Try posing your trophy straight on and profile to capture different elements of the head and antlers.
- The default is to smile at the camera, but get some shots looking and admiring the animal.
- Get some candid shots throughout the day of your hunting party, these are great to tell a story that goes along with that trophy photo.
- This list is just a start, get creative! Try new things, some will work and some won’t but that is how we learn and get better.
A few examples
Great composition with low angle and prominent skyline with a well thought out and dramatic positioning of the hunter.
Good example of posing next to rather than behind the trophy. Notice the care taken to stage a bedding posture and clean the mouth and coat. Because of the midday sun using flash would have made the hunters face more visible.
Prime example of a group photo, notice the even lighting and clear view of each hunter’s face. No low hat brims or sunglasses.
Good luck and happy snapping!
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We believe in the ethical pursuit of hunting and fishing adventures and support taking from the land only what you can use and leaving it in better shape than you found it.
Tight Lines & Happy Hunting!
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