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9 Tips for Better Field Photos

Aug 27, 2015 |  #hoyt #bowhunting #compound

This article, by Dustin Etheredge of Outback Outdoors, is a follow-up to “Do’s and Don’ts of Trophy Photos” 

My job at Outback Outdoors is to capture the story and adventure from every hunt. Although most of what we do is told through video, great photos are just as crucial to our business.  As a production company we owe certain responsibilities to the companies we work with and who sponsor our television show.  Along with the episodes and the supporting video we share, we also supply everyone with supporting images from that particular adventure. These images are used in the competitive social media world, where it takes the right photo to fuel liking, sharing and reposting. The biggest demand and most popular image we shoot in the field is the trophy field photo.

Below are some points that describe some of my thoughts on taking excellent trophy harvest photos:

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Adam Wells - 2014 Nebraska Whitetail Buck

1- SHOOT WITH NO REGRETS - Shoot, shoot, shoot and keep shooting! The last thing you want to do after your hunt is look back and wish you would have taken more pictures.  Take wide shots, tight shots, pictures of just the animal, and some with you in them.  You won’t have any other choice once that animal is quartered up and hauled off the mountain, so make sure you come home with images you are happy with, and which help you relive the adventure.  We typically take more than an hour to take all of our field pictures and usually come out with 5-10 solid images.

 2- THE BIGGER PICTURE - When setting up your field picture after a successful hunt, start by looking at the bigger picture - the background. Yes, the trophy is the subject of the image but a compelling background helps tell the story of that trophy and the adventure leading up to it.  Shooting a little wider than you normally do and showing things like the terrain, weather, etc., will help viewers understand the adventure.  You can always crop the photos in post-production (we use Photoshop) to pull tighter to the subject but you can never go wider.

 3- CLEAN OUTLINE - If possible, position the animal’s horns/antlers in a clean background.  This helps show all the details and character of the animal, as well as giving the horns/antlers a pop.  Typically, the sky is the best option for this and will often require you to shoot from a lower angle to really give that head gear some definition. The example below, of Trevon Stoltzfus and his 2014 Wyoming Pronghorn, demonstrates the “bigger picture” and “clean outline” points previously made.

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Example 1: Trevon Stoltzfus  - 2014 WY Pronghorn Antelope - Split Rock Ranch, WY

 4- NO TRICKERY - Pose the hunter in a natural position with the trophy, immediately behind or next to the animal.  Don’t use perspective, camera or posing tricks to make the head gear appear bigger than it actually is. These tricks are very popular in the hunting community and are overused.  Nothing is more obvious than the hunter sitting at the rump of the animal, or holding the animals head with his arms fully extended.  These images can take away from the story your image is telling.

5- CATCH THE MOMENT – EMOTIONAL/REFLECTIVE SHOTS - Don’t wait for the “traditional” shot, take pictures throughout the process;  some of our best pictures happen before or after the “traditional” photo. Catching the hunter admiring the animal and reflecting on the hunt tells a powerful story.  When the hunter thinks you’re not ready he or she will have a moment; capitalizing on that moment will give your image a whole different feel. Example 2 of Adam Wells and his 2013 bull demonstrate this point.  This shot was taken in-between some adjustments I was making to my position. I happened to look up and find Adam in a day-dream state, like he was thinking about everything that just happened.  This shot resulted in a more compelling image than the “traditional” field picture and shows some true emotion.

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EXAMPLE 2: Adam Wells - 2013 Colorado Bull Elk

6- SHOOT RAW - Set your camera to take pictures in the raw format (if available).  Raw format is an uncompressed file that retains more information from the original shot than a compressed jpeg would.  This increased information allows for manipulation and correction of multiple parameters, including white balance, exposure, shadows, highlights etc.  The downfalls of raw format is that it’s a larger file size than a jpeg and it requires an image editing software to process and export the raw files to a more friendly format, like jpeg.  But I guarantee once you switch over to the raw side and see the possibilities of correction and manipulation you will never go back to jpeg.

7- SHOOT UNDER, DON’T CLIP - When shooting a field photo, I recommend shooting a little underexposed, especially if you are shooting in the raw format.  Doing so will reduce the chance of clipping your highlights and blowing out areas of your image; if that happens you will lose data in that particular part of the image - resulting in un-recoverable pixels.  Shooting a hair underexposed is an easy fix in editing software by increasing the shadows, which will result in a higher dynamic-range image.  A high dynamic range image shows details in the shadows, as well as the highlights, which creates a final image that is more similar to how the eye sees the world around us.

 8- POST PROCESSING - At Outback Outdoors, we use Adobe products for all of our post-processing and editing needs.  Both Lightroom and Photoshop have a raw image processor and perform extremely well for everything we do.  As previously discussed, I try to bring the shadow detail back to life, as well as trying to retain the information in the sky, which creates a higher dynamic-ranged image.  I will also adjust the white balance, exposure, contrast, vibrance and saturation of an image.  See example 3 or Adam Wells 2014 Nebraska Whitetail

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Example 3: Trevon Stoltzfus – 2014 WY Antelope

9-TAKE A BREAK – Lastly, when editing pictures I will often take a break and then revisit the images before the final export, and before I send them out to everyone.  Doing so allows me to see the images with fresh eyes and notice things that I didn’t see before, like if the image is too dark or over saturated. It’s better for you to take a moment and catch the problem before you send it out, rather than after thousands of others see it.

I couldn’t possibly address entire thought process, or post processing workflow, in a single article, but I would love to discuss this topic more! If you have any questions or comments, please shoot me an email at [email protected]

Thanks

Dustin Etheredge

Producer, Outback Outdoors