by Russ Mehling, General Manager, Webber’s Lodges
5 more tips for getting the photo everyone talks about!
Last month, we looked at staging your trophy wild game photos. This month we want to look at what makes the difference between taking breathtaking photos and photos that fail to share the emotion of your hunt. Remember our final tip from last month — take your time — this is just as crucial while taking the photos as it is while setting them up.
1. Zooming in on what’s important
Using last month’s tips, we posed the animal and cleaned up the scene. So now the question is what do we want a picture of? It depends completely on your personal preference and the type of animal you’ve taken.
If we use whitetail deer as an example, they all look pretty similar from the neck down, so you may want to focus mainly on the head and/or antlers. In the case of something more unique, that people don’t see as often, such as a Musk Ox, you may want to include the entire body of the animal.
These shots can all be controlled by the photographer’s distance from the subject and the zoom function on the camera. I am a fan of using the zoom as little as possible, but that means the person you’ve asked to take the picture needs to be willing to move around a little more. To play it safe (and since we don’t need to pay for photo developing like we used to), take pictures from both near and far. Showcase the special features (antlers/horns, or scars).
Once you’ve decided what you’re going to focus on, make sure you put in the effort to show these features in the best light possible.
With all trophy shots, the photographer should get as low as possible. Eye level with the animal is best. The higher the picture is taken from, the smaller the subject will appear. Skylining (framing the photo so that the antlers are above the horizon so there’s nothing behind them but sky) is a great way to show off both the size and detail of an animal’s horns or antlers. If that’s not possible, try and ensure there is as little behind them as possible.
The hunter should be off to the side of whatever feature you’re focusing on. Again, taking photos is cheap, so try many different angles. After a while you will develop a sense of what angles make for the best photos.
3. What’s In and What’s Not
Sometimes the scenery can help explain a situation or environment. It can show the steep terrain on a mountain hunt for sheep or goat, the frigid temperatures of a late season deer hunt, or in some cases, the beautiful barren landscape of an Arctic hunt. Including some of the terrain or conditions in your trophy photo may bring the viewer of the photograph a little closer to the actual adventure.
Obviously, you as the hunter should be in some of the photos, and remember in Part 1 of this article we talked about adding other hunters or guides as well. For photos with hunters or guides in them, make sure to position them behind the animal, not in front of it or beside it. Being beside or in front of the animal will make the animal appear smaller.
I’m not saying to get way behind the animal and long-arm it to exaggerate the size, but by being slightly behind it, you are drawing the attention to your quarry, which is where it belongs.
Most cameras have a point and shoot option now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take it off full auto to improve some types of shots.
One of the most common (and easiest to fix) problems is dark faces under caps. Find the setting on your camera to turn on the flash. This will help identify any hunters in the photo who are wearing sun-shielding caps (since we have the sun behind the photographer as we learned last month).
Besides lessening the shadows from the cap’s brim, a flash may add improved colour and depth to your photos. Experiment with and without the flash so you have lots of photo options to choose from when you get home.
Did you have a good time? Did you enjoy your adventure? These are questions nobody should have to ask when looking at your photos. If you’re taking a trophy photo, you’ve achieved what you set out to do on this trip and it is okay to look like you enjoyed it. Photos always look better if the people in them look like they’re enjoying themselves. You didn’t commit a crime and this isn’t a mug shot so be proud of what you’ve accomplished and smile!
The tips from these two posts have concentrated on the Trophy Shot, the culmination of your hunting adventure. Most of your hunting buddies are looking forward to these pictures the most, but there is probably a lot more story to tell.
Don’t forget to have your camera handy during all parts of your trip. Think about telling a story with only photos. Take pictures while in camp, and when travelling to and from camp. Photos of the hunters and guides you shared camp with will bring personality into your story. Any specialized equipment used on your hunt can also show how unique your journey was.
Unforeseen glitches such as equipment breakdowns, extended weather delays, or unexpected wildlife encounters, can turn a regular hunting tale into an epic adventure!
Take advantage of as many of these photo opportunities as you can, not only for the benefit of your audience, but also for yourself. Years down the road, when you’re reliving your experience, you’ll be thankful you did. After all, you want your fond memories to last forever.
You can take them anywhere. They’ll keep you going when you can’t. And they’ll always make you smile.