“I wish I would have taken fewer photos…”
-Said no one ever.
Taking photos on every outing in the field is something that everyone should be doing. Whether they are used for personal reflection down the road, or immediate sharing with social media following an adventure, photos capture moments like nothing else. Hunting takes us to incredible places with the people we hold the closest, and unfortunately it’s never a guarantee we’ll get to visit the same places twice. Even more grievous is the fact that we never know how many adventures are left in the book between us and our closest hunting partners. If you’re not already in the habit of taking photos (and lots of them), please start this season. You’ll be glad you did.
The number one reason many people dismiss taking more photos is simply because when they get home and view them, they don’t feel their photography did the trip justice. Our time spent hunting gives us a feeling that’s hard to put into words. When our photos don’t follow suit with the mood of the trip, they just aren’t as inspiring to share or look at down the road.
So without further adieu, here are some simple ways to begin upping the quality of your final photos:
Focus on the adventure, not just the result.
When it comes to photo documenting a hunt, the old saying of “It’s about the journey, not the destination” is spot on. The effort put forth, the scenery viewed, and the elements endured are all important factors that make a hunt unique. Pay attention to these factors and get the camera out when all three can be captured in a single photo. You will soon realize that this type of photo opportunity comes up often, so be ready!
Furthermore, it’s important to understand that what may seem like a dull moment when it’s happening can still be a great time for a unique photo. Cooking beneath the light of a headlamp, packing up a pack, filling water, taping up a blister, or even napping under a tree are all common occurrences that provide chances to capture the journey. If photos like these are taken frequently throughout a hunt, you will have a great storyline of the adventure by the end of it.
Use a quality camera.
It seems rudimentary, but in order to follow through with the tips below you will need to have quality photos to start with. There are countless options from the couple-hundred dollar compact point and shoots, up to interchangeable lens DSLRs that will get the job done. The pros like to look at features way beyond Megapixel count, but we’re not splitting hairs here… nor am I qualified to speak on behalf of the pros. In my past experience with point-and-shoots, 9 Megapixels seems to be about the minimum for producing good editable photos under a range of conditions.
Not only will colors and definition be better with a good camera, but it will also buy you some extra room for cropping and editing photos without losing quality. The bottom line is this: Invest in a decent camera and put the cell phone away.
Multiple shots from varying angles and settings.
So you’ve spotted what looks like a good photo opportunity, pulled out the camera, and taken a picture. Don’t stop there! Take some additional time to move around and shoot the photo from different angles, using various amounts of zoom. Additionally, shoot with and without the flash engaged- even if it’s a sunny day. Your hunting partners may think you’re going overboard at times, but they will likely thank you later. The more shots you take, the better the odds become that one turns out just how you want it. If passing the camera off to a buddy to do the shooting, don’t be afraid to look at the photos and ask for something different if you don’t see what you had envisioned.
If and when you are successful with a harvest, take this tip to the extreme. Spending an extra 15-30 minutes on harvest photos isn’t going to hurt anything under most conditions. Remember, this is a moment you’re going to reflect back on for years to come- do your best to get the shots you’ll be happy with. Again, look at the photos as you go and make sure you’re getting what you want if someone else is pushing the button. They will probably appreciate the feedback and learning experience. In my opinion, the top three things to keep in mind when it comes to harvest photos are as follows: 1) Animal should be posed in a respectful manner. Tuck in the tongue, clean excess blood, etc. 2) Avoid cutting off any portions of the animal and hunter in the frame. Err on the side of being backed out too far- photos can and should always be cropped later. 3) Avoid taking photos from too high or too low. The camera should be aimed from a height that falls somewhere between the hunters chin and 12″ off the ground.
To provide an example on quantity, I typically come home with anywhere from 750-1,500 photos after each extended trip in the field. Of these, I usually am happy with 5-10% of them- which brings us to our next step below.
Narrow down and edit your favorites.
Even if you come home with 1,000+ photos upon the conclusion of a trip, it won’t take long to sort the keepers from the throw-aways once they’ve been loaded onto the computer. Discard the bad ones, keep the okay ones, and flag your favorites.
What you do from here really depends on how and when you want to use the photos. If the plan is to just look at them every now and then and nothing more, then the editing phase probably isn’t all that important. But if you’d like to put together a bundle of favorites that really capture the overall feel of the adventure for sharing via email or social media, then some editing really should be done to ensure the best response from your audience.
Editing doesn’t have to mean spending hours or even minutes on a single image. If you want to get into the finest details in that regard, then you’ll find better info than what I can provide elsewhere. For most intents and purposes, simply using the crop, exposure, contrast, and saturation features on any standard photo program will do the trick. 90% of the photo editing I do is conducted in iPhoto- Mac’s basic platform that comes free with every computer they sell. These editing features are so fast, effective, and easy to use that there’s really no reason to explain them here. Simply playing around with these adjustments on a few photos is all it takes to learn.
To quickly show the power of Crop/ Exposure/ Contrast/ Saturation, take a look at the before and after comparison below:
I hope these quick and simple photo tips come in useful for you this season. Photography is a fun and rewarding additional hobby to supplement hunting trips. As with anything, if you practice, your skills will improve. If you have specific questions on anything covered here, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If any questions are too technical, I would be glad to forward them to Blaise, our in-house photo/video manager.