Both hunters and fishermen love to tell the stories behind the successful trips they’ve had. But I’ve been surprised at just how few folks take the time or effort to document their excursions with good photographs.
In most situations, a picture is actually going to be the only part of the adventure that lasts.
Sure, some catches and hunt harvests will be carried to the taxidermist. But for most of us, those make up a very small portion of the “trophies” that we’ll gather along our journey in the outdoors. Besides being far less expensive, wouldn’t a great picture make a dandy wall hanger as well?
In 1997, I was fortunate enough to become friends with legendary fly fisherman, outdoor writer and photographer Lefty Kreh. During a trip up to his home in Timonium, Md., we began to talk photography, and soon I found myself getting a long and much appreciated lesson as we flipped through hundreds of his photos on a slide projector.
The coaching that I received that day has stuck with me, and I’ve tried to apply it to every photo that I’ve taken since. Much of what I learned from him is actually common sense.
Whether you’re an aspiring photographer or would just like to take better photos to show off later – it all begins with the basics. The following tips are guaranteed to give you images that you’ll be proud to show off.
First and foremost, know that a good camera is essential to good picture taking. Simply put, the one on your cellphone is good for nothing more than a quick snapshot that you’ll send to someone else’s phone. No matter how many megapixels that phone claims to have, try to enlarge a print from one, and you’ll find them to be grainy, low-resolution pictures that aren’t good for much more than fire starter.
This doesn’t mean that you need to spend big bucks for a bulky camera to lug around. Today’s tiny pocket digitals of at least five megapixels do a great job with high-quality enlargements and are fairly inexpensive. Plus, they’re small enough to not get in the way.
One of the keys, however, is to set the camera to take shots at the highest possible image quality.
Pay careful attention to what will be the background of your photo. Natural habitat works best for outdoors trophy shots. Be sure that what’s behind you is not too “busy” or it will be a distraction.
Are you taking one of a friend and his fish while you’re out on a boat? Remember, boats move, and as they rock the horizon can change within the frame, tilting left or right.
Find right angle
No matter if it’s a tiny fish or a moose – there will be one angle that does the best job of showing it off. Play around with the both the direction or angle that the picture is taken from and the direction or angle from which it is held.
For example, if you have a hunter kneeling behind his deer on the ground, don’t take the shot while standing. Take a knee. By shooting from this position, you’ll automatically improve both the background and intimacy of the picture. The deer’s antlers may look larger and more impressive from either the left, right or straight angles.
One guaranteed trick to make a mediocre set of antlers appear more monstrous is to zoom in and take the photo from a little lower vantage point.
There are few things more disappointing than picking up your pictures of that “catch of a lifetime” to find that they are blurred. The first thing that folks usually think is that the shot was out of focus, but this is usually not the case. Most often, it’s the steadiness of the camera.
There are tons of inexpensive tripods — $20 to $30 — that will guarantee this not to be a problem, and they can be found at most of the “big box” discount stores.
Get it out front!
Another of the great tricks of trophy photography is to place the fish or animal closest to the camera. I couldn’t begin to count just how many big fish I’ve seen hanging on a stringer by someone’s side.
Sure, I could tell they were decent fish, but they seemed like nothing special. Instead, get rid of that stringer and hold the fish out toward the camera. By doing so, you’ll find that your four pounder now looks like eight.
The same holds true for deer or any other critter in the woods. As it lies on the ground, kneel behind it at arm’s reach while holding the antlers up and toward the camera. It will shock you just how big it will appear in the finished product.
It doesn’t matter if we’re fishing or hunting, we tend to wear a hat. Hats are terrible for pictures because they shade the subject’s face.
No problem. Just manually turn the camera’s flash on – even if it’s the middle of the day. Termed “fill flash,” this will remove all of the shading and allow the face to be clearly seen.
A mid-day sun that sits high in the sky is the worst lighting for photos. Early morning and late afternoon are considered the “golden hours” by outdoors photographers.
If you must shoot in harsh sunlight, try moving to a more shaded area. The aforementioned “fill flash” will play a major role here.
Keep pushing the button
These days most everyone shoots in the digital format, which means, obviously, film isn’t required. This also means that you’re no longer limited to 36 shots at a time.
When the opportunity to immortalize a special moment arrives, don’t be afraid to shoot until a blister shows up on your finger.