Here’s what you’re doing wrong with your fishing and hunting photos

We hook and ball people like to pose with our quarry.

These days, taking pictures of ourselves or others with animals we’ve taken is so much a part of the experience that it would be rare not to. Cell phones and digital cameras made it easy to take a few pictures. We can’t get enough of them.

While there’s no official right or wrong way to take them, a little effort can go a long way in ensuring quality photos. I am by no means a professional photographer, nor do I claim to be any expert in the field, but over the years I have adopted an unofficial process that seems to work well by focusing on three key factors : the setting, the lighting and presentation.

Setting and context are crucial. Truck beds, ATV racks and garages rarely provide the best scene. Land is always better if it is available. It is worth taking the time to find a suitable place free of litter, extra equipment or other unnatural objects.

When choosing the location, take note of the background, which can make or break an image. If possible, the background should be visually appealing, natural and free of vehicles, buildings or any other unwanted elements. A buck looks much nicer on the side of the oak ridge he’s snuck down than shoved in the bed of a pickup truck between returnable cans and spare tires.

Chris Sargent holds a striper at night, showing good contrast against the dark background. The photo is taken at ground level, using supplemental lighting from a headlamp placed behind and beside the person taking the photo. Credit: Courtesy of Chris Sargent

Adjustment can be tricky for fishing shots. Not all fish are caught on a pristine river bank at sunset. Usually the setting is a boat, with a row of camps or houses in the background. This is often unavoidable but these elements can be adapted to the situation and appropriately included.

Lighting poses an interesting challenge for photos. Day and night offer their own unique variables.

On sunny days, the biggest battle will be with the shadows. Do your best to take a good look before taking the photo to determine if there are any unwanted shadows present. A shadow covering a face, antlers, or half of a fish can detract from an otherwise excellent photo. I find cloudy or overcast days to be much better.

Night shots can be tricky because all the lighting is artificial. Shadows plague night scenes, but again, a little caution before hitting that button will really help. Flashes work well, but other light sources, such as a flashlight, headlamp, or even a properly positioned headlight behind the camera, can illuminate the subject just fine.

If you can’t do this at night, you can, if possible, try again in daylight the next day.

The final and most important factor to consider, in my opinion, is the presentation and appearance of the animal or fish – and you. Efforts should be made to clean the animal or fish, wiping away any unnecessary blood and debris.

Briefly dipping a fish in water not only cleans, but also adds a more natural sheen. In the case of big game, try to tuck the tongue into the mouth and position it tastefully, as if lying down.

The human subjects in the photo should also have a clean appearance. Most often, this is not the time to use tobacco products or alcohol. Store them for the celebration afterwards. People should be positioned appropriately, usually directly behind a big game, holding their head up, or holding a fish in front.

As a general rule, I try to position myself at a close distance from the animal. Some choose to position themselves several feet behind an animal or hold a fish far ahead to exaggerate size. To each his own.

When it comes to camera positioning, the best photos are often taken near ground level, looking slightly upwards and even better if you can contrast the animal’s head or antlers with a rear -plan, like a horizon line.

Emily Goode poses with her first Tom. Goode and the bird are well presented and well positioned. Credit: Courtesy of Chris Sargent

Long after the hunting or fishing trip is over, we turn to photos as the best way to recall our memories. The one who didn’t run away. The biggest or the smallest. An emotional first or an even more emotional last. These photos are recorded moments that we must preserve, pass on and share with those we choose.

More importantly – and especially true now in this digital and social media world – they not only represent ourselves as sportsmen and women, but reflect the group as a whole. With that in mind, the next time you land a trophy fish or land that buck you’re looking for, take a few minutes to make sure the shot is one for the books.

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