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Tips for taking GREAT field photos

(Original version posted in Grand Slam Magazine in 2006)

#1 Keep the sun behind you.
Modern Camera’s measure the light for you automatically. Keeping the sun behind the photographer’s back prevents the camera’s light meter from being fooled by direct sunlight and reduces lens flare. With the sun behind you, enough light reaches the subject to showcase a wide variety of color without washing out features such as skin tones or light colored fur. When the sun is behind your subject, they become a dark silhouette, when the sun is to one side, the shadows can be very stark on the far side of your subject.

#2 Shoot vertically oriented shots.
Many times rotating the camera 90 degrees allows you to get much closer to your subject while also capturing more of the background behind your subject. Since you are likely to be taking your trophy photos in some of the most picturesque spots on earth, why not frame the shot to include some of the scenery behind your subject? Look at the photos in the header graphic and note how the bold greens and blues make for vivid and dramatic images. Hint: All other factors being equal, vertically oriented photos sometimes edge out other contenders in selecting cover shots as it is easier to conform them to the magazine page.

#3 Dealing With Midday Light.
Midday sun is the worst possible setting for trophy photographs. If shooting your trophy midday, look for a place to get out of the direct sun such as the shadow of a mountain or under a stand of trees. If you must shoot in direct sun, believe it or not, one of the simplest solutions to fixing high-contrast scenes is to use the camera’s flash. This may seem odd since the sun is high and bright however if you have ever seen a great trophy photo where the scene is well lit but the hunters face is too dark because of the shadow from his cap’s bill, you understand perfectly. Using the flash can add just enough light to illuminate the shadowed area of your subject. Remember, most digital camera flashes only have a range of about 10 feet, so don’t stand too far away from the subject.

#4 Practice Makes Perfect.
Before your next big hunt, take some extra time to practice. Aquaint yourself with your cameras various settings and features just like you do your other gear. Although the auto setting may pass for everyday situations, don’t miss the “shot” of a lifetime after you’ve just made the “shot” of a lifetime because you are unprepared to take full advantage of your cameras features. Get a friend or your kids in the back yard with your dog at different times of the day and shoot, shoot, shoot. Try to do so in different types of cloud cover and weather conditions, experimenting with as many variables as possible.

#5 Go for variety!
Take MANY pictures from several distances and angles. Be methodical. Begin by getting several shots from very close where the hunter and trophy completely fill and even go outside the frame. Then step back several feet and get your subject with some mid-ground features such a nearby tree or boulder. Then back up even further to capture a panoramic view of the distant scenery with your your subject. remember to alternate between horizontal and vertically oriented shots. Hint: Low camera angles make your subject appear larger whereas a camera positioned above the subject tend to diminish it.