A good hunting trip with family and friends is one of life’s most cherished rituals and taking lots of photos and video is a great way to make it fun, meaningful and long-remembered. With a wide assortment of quality digital cameras available at affordable prices, there’s simply no excuse for not capturing and saving some of those hunting memories.
Remember to take hunting pictures of the whole hunt, even the drive, hike or bike in, family in a way that tells an interesting story, rather than just “The End”. Take pictures of the drive to your destination. Take pictures during the hike into your hunting spot. Take pictures of hunting camp, including meals, campfires, and sleeping area. The change in weather can make for interesting pictures as well as the vast change in elevation and scenery. Take hunting pictures to tell the real story of the effort, skill and experience that lead to up to your successful harvest.
The first step in taking great pictures is to get to know your camera. Play around with your camera and owner’s manual in advance. In the field you may be rushed to pursue your game or anxious to get to work field dressing and retrieving downed animals. Know how to change settings and try to have a basic understanding of what the settings are for.
You can usually set the resolution on a digital camera for sharpness of the picture. You’ll get better quality on the highest setting, but it will also make it harder to send by email, due to the size of the file it creates. We recommend that you take pictures at the highest quality setting for print and later you can downsize the file to make it easier to send via email or post on social media sites.
Here are 20 ways to take better photos during your next outdoor adventure:
- Keep your camera handy and readily available so you are more likely to use it. You’ll miss a million photo opportunities if you leave it in the truck. Your camera will be just fine tucked in a vest pocket or in your coat, and it will be within reach when you need it.
- Experiment by taking a lot of photos. Don’t waste a lot for time editing pictures as you shoot them. Load your camera with the biggest memory card you can afford and shoot, shoot and shoot some more. There will be plenty of time to edit the stuff when you get home. During editing, save only those photos worth keeping and delete the remainder.
- Get the light right and remember that the best light of the day usually occurs the first hour or so in the morning and the last hour before sunset. Avoid harsh lighting situations, if possible. Try to put the sun behind the camera, but avoid casting an unwanted shadow onto the photo field. Bright sunlight will wash out colors and details in the photo. Try waiting a couple hours to take your trophy images in the warm light of evening as this can make a huge difference. If the sky is overcast, the light will be largely shadow-free and great for photography all day long. Softer light may also be available under the trees, but watch out for streaks of sunlight cast across the subjects. Take advantage of good light. Good light equals great photos.
- Use your on-camera flash. This will reduce nasty shadows when photographing in full sun. Check your camera’s instruction manual. There’s likely a pre-programmed mode specifically for outdoor fill-flash.
- Try different shots with different settings, including shutter speed and flash or no flash. Shooting at various exposure settings above and below the camera’s meter reading is called bracketing. Sometimes your camera’s meter can be fooled by extremes in light and shadow, and bracketing can compensate for this error.
- Try turning the camera to shoot both vertical and horizontal photos for an entirely different perspective. A scene may look better vertically than it does horizontally so try shooting it both ways. Make sure to follow the “rule of thirds” as a picture is more attractive if the subject(s) is not centered in the frame.
- Shoot at different focal lengths. Zoom in and out on a subject to get close-ups as well as wide-angle shots. Zoom in to capture details and emotions.
- Vary your shooting angle. Shoot a scene from as many angles as you feasibly can by shooting from all sides and at different heights. Turning the antlers to the side would emphasize them. Take pictures from all angles and pick the best later.
- Consider carrying a mini tripod, if a full tripod or partner is not available. Use the self timer to take hunting pictures of yourself with your downed trophy or some action shots of the hunt.
- Keep the animal in good shape after the kill. Clean blood off the animal and cover up blood on the ground with some dirt, grass or other plants. Place an animal’s tongue in its mouth or remove it all together. Pre-packed “wet wipes” work well for simple field clean ups.
- Take pictures before gutting or get up close to avoid the bloody field dressed area of the animal. Take photos that show respect both for the animals and those looking at the pictures. Avoid sitting on the animal in a triumphant pose. Show some class, as well as some respect for the animal that gave its life for you.
- Move it! Make photographing trophies a moving experience. Seek out a photogenic spot that offers a great background and good light to make your pictures, then move the hunter and the prize buck there for the shoot.
- Keep firearm muzzles and arrows pointed away from all people and buildings and keep the gun’s action open. If you want your rifle or bow in the hunting pictures, don’t let it become too prominent and take away from the two most important subjects, the hunter and the animal. Resting the gun or bow across the antlers looks amateurish. It looks much better laying across your trophy’s side. Make sure the gun is pointing away from the camera or the hunter to avoid embarrassing looking safety infractions in your photo.
- Capture some action. Everybody takes the standard “grip-and-grin” shots with a trophy. Keep your eyes peeled and camera ready as the crew interacts with each other and as they drag the buck toward the truck. Some memorable candid images will develop.
- Position hunters for scale. The “hero” should be directly on the ground behind a trophy for better scale and less dead space. Look at trophy images done by professionals in magazines and on the web. The ones with the hunter low to the ground are best. Use an exciting background to pose the animal and hunter. Search for exciting backgrounds like gnarled tree trunks, rocks, flowering trees.
- Be a reporter. The actual kill is a small part of why you hunt. Reflect that in your pictures. Capture landscapes, weather conditions, human interactions and other factors that keep us going back to the woods.
- Make a list. Write down a list of images you’d like to make. If you don’t put it on paper, you’ll likely forget. Does your buddy have a unique treestand setup? Make it a point to make an image. Does your friend’s bird dog have tons of character? Block out time to get some shots.
- Carry your camera on scouting trips. Shoot the things you find—trails, tracks, rubs and scrapes. It’s good practice, and you’ll have a nice digital journal to reference later.
- Put the word out. Tell your hunting pals you want to photograph their trophies. Not only will you be first in line for great images, you’ll get the inside scoop on the kill.
- Weather the storm. Don’t leave your camera behind just because the weather is nasty. There are great images to be had in the rain and snow, and a zip-lock sandwich bag is all the extra protection your camera needs.
By following these helpful hints, you’ll be on your way to taking professional-quality photos and videos. Plus, you’ll capture unforgettable images to share for years to come.
You only get one chance at a time preserving your hunt with photos. The opportunity quickly evaporates and never returns. Put some thought and effort into your hunting pictures and you will have preserved opportunities to share and relive those rich memories of your elk hunts for the rest of your life, and probably beyond!