There is nothing like the feeling of hunting alone. You feel the consequence of every action, good or bad. Nobody is holding you back, nobody is distracting you, nobody is helping you, but there is also nobody to capture the moment. Taking photos while hunting alone can be quite challenging. In this article, I’ll talk about two different ways I would suggest doing it and what you should consider before you go on your hunt.
The first thing I think about when capturing content is where it will be used or seen. Taking random photos without a plan will likely leave you disappointed. It is critical to know what you want to do with the media you capture. Before you go and purchase a $2,000 camera, you need to decide a few things. Why do you want to take photos on your hunt? Do you want to capture something that you can print and hang on the wall, or are you more excited about sharing your experiences with your friends? Do you want to put together a film for YouTube, or would you rather sit down with your family and watch a slideshow on the TV? For most of you, the answer is going to be sharing experiences with friends and family. However, if you are trying to create higher quality content, I’ll cover that at the end.
So, you’re going on a solo hunt and you simply want to capture enough content to share on social media and show your family. If this is you, don’t go out and purchase a camera. The main reason I say this is because you will likely neglect the post hunt process of editing and organizing photo and video from the trip. What I would suggest instead is to get a newer phone and be more mindful about what you capture. The cameras on new phones will not hold you back, and you can take great low light photos of your kill with a headlamp, a small tripod, and a phone mount. Learn the settings available in your phone, watch some YouTube videos on how to use your phone in low light, and practice it at home before you go out. When you are walking up to your kill, exhausted and four miles from the truck, you are not going to get good results unless you know how to use your equipment.
Two more things to note when taking photos is the importance of landscape images and selfies. A good landscape photo can help your audience create an image in their head of where you were at and what your obstacles were. This will keep them more engaged. A few good selfies will give your story a main character. Your facial expression will convey a ton of information, so don’t be afraid to take a few pictures of yourself! This will help your audience create an emotional connection to the story you are telling, even if it’s just a story on Instagram.
As far as video is concerned, you will probably want to shoot everything in vertical format. That way, it will show on social media better. Whenever you are taking a video, have a plan. You need to be intentional about what you are trying to share in that video, even if it’s just you driving down a bumpy road. Don’t start the video too early, don’t waste time while you’re filming, and DON’T LET YOUR HAND SHAKE! Shaky video is a sure way to make everyone else become disinterested. Be smooth, be focused, and film with a purpose. Also note that the worst/hardest part of your hunt is often the most interesting. Make an effort to capture the struggle, just avoid being overly dramatic. This isn’t a reality TV show.
The hunt is done and you’re headed home, but the work is not over yet. Before you start posting or showing pictures to your family, sit down and delete any poor quality or duplicated photos. After that, go through and decide which images help tell the story and which ones will lose your audience (even if your audience is 5 years old). Keep in mind that people want to see what your trip was like, but they’re not as emotionally invested in it as you are. Be intentional about what you share, and be cautious about how long it takes. There’s nothing worse than getting stuck listening to a hunt story that depletes your patience. Avoid sharing selfishly.
If you are the guy who has been using their phone and still wants higher quality images to share, it’s time to start looking at some real camera equipment. My advice is to go all in or get out. Purchasing a $900 point and shoot camera is not going to give you what you’re looking for. If you want photo only, look at the entry level aps-c crop sensor cameras from Nikon, Canon, Sony, Lumix, or others. Don’t be afraid of a used camera either. You can get a good photography camera body for as low as $400. However, if you’re looking to capture high quality video as well as photos, consider purchasing a mirrorless camera such as the Canon EOS R or one of the many Sony Alphas. That being said, the camera body is going to be less important than you think. The place you should invest your money in is lenses. If you’re looking for good low light kill photos, look for a prime (no zoom) lens that is between 16mm (wide) and 35mm (standard). Make sure that this lens has a low F-stop as well. Something below f3.5 would be ideal. The lower the F-stop, the more light the lens will let in and the blurrier your background will be. This can help a lot in brushy images where the surrounding area is very busy.
If this information is confusing to you, it’s time to dig in and educate yourself. It is not hard to learn about camera equipment, anybody can do it, but it does take some time. Keep in mind that YouTube will be your best friend. If you’re not willing to do the research, you won’t be willing to do the rest of the work. Dive in, commit to it, or stick to your phone. You will be disappointed and frustrated unless you give this a lot of time and attention.
If you are trying to capture video with a real camera for YouTube or other platforms, quit reading this article and start learning how to use your editing software. For the most part, you will be the only one who will ever edit your video, so learn how to make it easy and enjoyable. Don’t go out and get a bunch of footage unless you have a plan to edit it yourself. If editing your own video scares you, stick to filming on your phone!
Once again, having the right equipment, having it easily accessible, and capturing good content is only the first half of your job. The importance of organization and commitment to the post process is key to a satisfying end result. Always empty your card onto a hard drive (external or internal), edit photos, and export them to the same folder on that drive. Find an organization system that works for you and commit to it. Don’t let years’ worth of photos and video get stored on an SD card.
This is a lot of information, so let me run through it one more time. If you are not willing to commit to a full-size camera and all of the post-hunt work that comes with it, stick to your phone. Use your phone smarter, be intentional, and try to share with your family or social media right after the hunt. If you are willing to commit to a full-size camera, make sure you know what you want out of the content from your hunt. There is a real cost associated with capturing quality content on your hunt, and it takes a ton of work to do it right. If you are out in the field alone, make sure to capture your own face. Smile, be genuine, talk to the camera, and create something that others will want to watch. It takes work to capture good content, but it will make that memory last forever.