Here are a few simple tips for better field photos.
Most of us haven’t taken a professional photography class during our lifetime. This being said, it is very likely that many of us have learned to take pictures in the field by trial and error.
Unfortunately, it takes time to learn positioning, cleanliness, lighting, and backgrounds, not to mention other important aspects of outdoor photography.
Moving away from the use of 35mm to digital has helped immensely over the years. With digital cameras you can take fewer pictures, edit and re-take while using various settings provided by your camera. Here are a few useful tips to keep in mind, all of which I have used over the years and take little time to perfect.
Probably one of the most important things, prior to even pulling your camera out of its case, is the preparation of the game animal/fish and its surroundings. First of all, make sure to clean all blood and dirt off of the subject. I like to carry some small rags, towel, gauze and cotton balls. These things are light and don’t take much room. Using available water to help remove blood or other foreign objects is a great way to improve your clean-up. For game animals, make sure the tongue is retracted.
The Dirty Work:
Push the tongue as far back into the mouth as possible and wipe all blood from around the nose, lips, face and ears. I like to use the gauze and cotton balls to help plug the nostrils, mouth and bullet/arrow holes that may produce additional blood drainage. Wipe any dirt or debris from the body and face. It is important to take a few minutes and make the animal look as if it was entirely still in its natural state.
Make sure the fur or feathers look as in place and natural as possible. You may have to take a little bit of time to return them by hand to their original places.
With fish, much of the same holds true. Using towels to remove blood is a good idea. Carrying a few of them in your tackle box or gear bag is a must. Dunk or spray fresh water on deceased fish to give your photo a lively look.
When posing with a stringer of fish, try to position all of them facing the same direction. If you are taking a photo of a larger game fish like a salmon, steelhead or sturgeon try to hold it away from your body. This will not only make the fish stand out, but also look bigger.
When possible, always try to position yourself behind the animal or fish. This will not only accentuate the subject but make it the main focal point of the photograph. With big game mammals, try to prop them up so as to highlight their best features, such as the antlers, color and size. For this, I like to use logs, boulders and sticks to help hold the body or head into the desired position. For subjects like turkeys, upland and waterfowl, make sure to display the plumage in front of your body in a way that the available light can help to show off the coloring.
While taking pictures on a slope, make sure to position the animal facing uphill. Taking pictures from an uphill position downhill can distort the size and view. So, in these cases try to remain on even ground with the subject of the photograph.
Lighting & Essential Gear:
Luckily, most of the time we harvest animals or catch fish, it is in the mornings or afternoons. These times are naturally best for picture taking. Midday shots usually are distorted by too much light. So, do your best and try to take the photo’s when the sun is lower in the sky. Try to put the sun behind you and have filtered lighting when taking your pictures. Having the sun positioned on either side of you works well also. Remember that the higher the sun, the more chance of glare or color distortion.
So, before snapping any shots always make it a priority to keep lighting in mind. Many times we hunt and fish alone so, I like to take a small tripod along to set my camera on. Most cameras have a timer so it works out very nicely. Also, don’t forget to pack cleaning supplies like small towels, rags, gauze, tissue, cotton balls and water to remove any unwanted dirt or blood. But, most importantly don’t forget to smile and enjoy the many unforgettable moments that you will be able to cherish for years to come.