Outdoor Life photographers share their secrets for making your best shots...with a camera.
Anyone who has spent time in the outdoors is sure to have come upon that single picture-perfect moment. Perhaps it was the time your daughter hauled in her first fish as dawn was breaking over the lake, or maybe it was when your best friend took the 10-pointer he’d been eyeing all season.
Enjoying the moment is easy, but capturing it well on film can take a little practice. To help get you started we asked some of the professional photographers whose work you can see in each issue of Outdoor Life to share their secrets to taking great pictures. So grab your camera and a few rolls of film (or your memory card if you’ve gone digital) and start shooting. When the pictures come back, they’ll be worth as much to you as the trophies you have mounted on your wall.
Shooting a Hero
Fill The Frame The animal should be the focal point of the photograph. What you see through the viewfinder is what the photo will look like, so tighten up on your subjects and take close-ups.
Set the Scene The background can help tell the story, but simpler is better. Make sure there are no distracting objects (trucks, gear) or lines (fences, trees, horizon lines) running through the frame.
Compose the Shot Have the hunter kneel or sit next to (or behind) the animal so the two are close, height-wise. Hold the camera at eye level, or at a slightly upward angle to your subjects.
**Prep Your Trophy Clean **the blood and dirt off the animal. Tuck in the tongue and prop up the head and ears. Turn the antlers to get the best angle.
Work the Light Use a fill flash, even in the daytime. Try to shoot the photo in the morning or evening when the light is warm and the angle of the sun is lower. Face your subjects into the sun. This will help highlight them against the background and eliminate shadows on their faces.
**Say Cheese **This should be a proud moment, so make sure the hunter smiles. Lift up his hat brim to avoid a shadowy face. Have the hunter look toward the animal if the sun is too bright so he doesn’t squint.
[pagebreak] The Basics
Before you can shoot a gun or cast a fly, there are some basic (but essential) facts you need to learn. Here are some answers every camera buff should know.
Which Film Speed?
For Single Lens Reflex (SLR) film cameras, go with 200 speed or 400 speed for general- purpose use. Keep a higher-speed film (800 ASA) handy for overcast days, low-light shooting and action shots.
How Many Pixels?
In general, the more megapixels of the digital camera, the better the resolution and the sharper the image. A 3-megapixel camera works well for most types of photography. Don’t forget batteries and an extra memory card.
What Size lens?
Lens size (measured in millimeters) determines the range of focal points from wide-angle to telephoto: The longer the lens, the closer the object appears.
A 28-80mm zoom lens offers great flexibility for close-ups and all-around use. For longer shots, an 80-200mm zoom works well.
— Candid shots make great “slice-of-life” photos because the subjects are acting naturally. To capture the moment, be unobtrusive and sneak pictures without others realizing what you’re up to. -_Bill Buckley _
—Take some shots that typify the scene, such as hunters still in their gear testing out new duck calls or measuring a set of antlers. Add in some photos of the camp with some of the surrounding scenery, to get a sense of place. –Mitch Kezar/ Lon E. Lauber
**– **Use a tripod to take some photos at dusk or night to capture different light sources, such as campfires or lanterns glowing within the tent.
These still-life shots make inviting and memorable images. Just don’t forgget to turn on the flash. –Mitch Kezar/ Lon E. Lauber
[pagebreak] Fresh Fish
**– **To make a fish look picture- perfect, make sure to get in close to the subject.
**– ** To capture the best colors, take the photo immediately after making the catch so the fish looks fresh.
**– ** Shorter fish look better held vertically and longer fish look better held horizontally.
**– ** Hold the fish near the upper body to frame the photo to include the fish and, most important, capture the fisherman’s proud smile.
**– ** Remember to use a fill flash to get rid of shadows.
**– ** Keep the background simple and uncluttered. –Mike Hehner
**– **These are difficult shots to get, so use your hunting and tracking skills and work from a blind if you want to get serious.
**– ** Pay attention to lighting and background to make sure the animal will stand out in the shot. –Mitch Kezar
**– ** To find more cooperative subjects that will stand still longer, head for national parks.
**– ** If you are in the wilderness, smaller animals such as squirrels and porcupines make good subjects that don’t spook as easily as big game. –Bill Buckley/ Lon E. Lauber
**– ** Don’t try to capture everything your eye sees with a single shot. Use visual priority; take the aspect or object within the scene that is the most colorful or interesting (a canoe on a lake at sunrise) and make it the focus of the photo. –Lon E. Lauber
**– ** Sunrises and sunsets make beautiful photos, but don’t fill half the frame with boring sky. Keep the focus on the landscape unless the sky is very interesting (strange cloud patterns, etc.). –Bill Buckley
**– ** Humor shots are mostly a combination of good luck and perfect timing, so always keep a camera handy. Lots of people gathered together-in camp, for example-can result in funny situations as they goof around or play practical jokes on one another.
**– ** Dogs are usually good for a laugh.
**– ** Watch for the direction a situation may be heading in. If you’re sure your buddy is about to fall out of his boat, grab a camera. –Bill Buckley
Now that you know how to take great hero shots, here’s a chance to see your work in the pages of Outdoor Life. To find out how to enter the Outdoor Life Photo Contest. Click Here.