Author: Vanessa Hunt
While some 2020 hunts have already come and gone, most hunters are gearing up to get their boots on the ground and find that animal they’ve been dreaming about for months now. As you’re putting your gear lists together, don’t forget to include your camera. You won’t regret taking the time to photograph all the aspects of your hunt because as memories fade, photographs can bring them back to the forefront of your mind.
When it comes to capturing the hunt, our Media Producer, Brady Harang, is second to none. That’s why I reached out to him to share with me, and now you, some of his best photo tips for a hunt. Whether you’ve got a high end DSLR camera or an average cell phone, you can always get a decent photo. Here are a few things Brady suggests you do regardless of your camera:
- Move the animal to a good spot. It’s easier said than done, but it's worth it. Look for somewhere that's a bit more open as this will help the animal stand out and not fade into the busy, brushy background. Also consider sunlight when choosing a spot. Take some quick test photos of the hunter in different locations (it doesn't take that long to do). Oftentimes, you want either direct sunlight or full shade. Having half shade in harsh light can give you some undesired shadows, but in the right scenario, it can also look really good. Take a picture of the hunter in an area before moving the animal.
- Clean it up. Whether it's garbage, gear, or brush, clean up the frame. It seems obvious, but in the moment, it's easy to forget.
- Position the animal properly. Most guys do a good job of this, but make sure the rack is level, all the points are showing, the hunter is visible, and the animal looks natural. A lower camera angle is usually better.
- Get it right before hitting that button! No one wants to go through 500 shots of one deer. You can avoid this by looking at the screen and making sure everything is how you want it before hitting the shutter.
- Don't ruin the moment. Photos are awesome, but they're not the reason you're out there. The more efficient you can get at taking a good picture, the more time you can spend in the moment.
KNOW YOUR CAMERA
Packing around a big camera is a pain, and newer cell phones have really great cameras. Brady often recommends getting a new cell phone over getting a new camera. However, here are a few things a high-end camera can do that a cell phone will struggle with:
1. Low light. Even with the iPhone's new night mode, your low light photos will be grainy or muddy. They will look a lot better on your phone screen than a computer screen.
2. Bokeh. It's a fancy word, but it refers to your depth of focus. In other words, how blurry is the background? The portrait mode on your phone is an artificial way of blurring the background, but it does not work well with antlers. If you want that silky- smooth background blur, you'll want to look at a high-end camera/lens with a low aperture or F-stop (e.g. f2.8). Keep in mind, sensor size plays a role in this as well. A smaller sensor (e.g. 1") at f2.8 will not have as much Bokeh as a larger sensor (e.g. APS-C/crop or Full Frame).
3. Zoom. Aside from the newest smartphones, you don't have many options in terms of zoom. This can either make your animal look bigger (wide angle) or bring a more dramatic, focused shot to the scene (telephoto). A narrower or zoomed lens can also keep you from giving away your secret spot by showing less of the surrounding landscape.
A quick wide-angle rant from Brady: The new cell phones have a wide- angle lens that is ~13mm equivalent. Be careful with this. The last thing Instagram needs is more crazy wide distorted pictures of an average buck that looks 250". However, this can look really good if you stand back a ways and take in the surrounding landscape. The edges of the frame will be stretched and distorted, so always try to keep your subject well away from the edges of the frame with a wide-angle lens.
You can do amazing things in post, and with the right program, you can seriously change the way an image looks. Brady uses Lightroom and Lightroom Mobile for all of his photos, but Snapseed is also a good option. Taking the time to selectively edit your photos will give you great results.
It's difficult for Brady to make camera recommendations because he only uses one camera for all of his work, but here are a couple options that he knows work well:
- New cell phone
- Pros: Lightweight, you've got it all the time, very easy to use, very smart auto mode, hard to screw up
- Cons: Limited in low light, not much background blur, not much for manual settings
- Pros: Lightweight, easy to use, good options for manual settings, good quality
- Cons: Somewhat costly, and you will still have some trouble with low light and background blur
- Nikon D5600 (Brady’s first proper camera)
- Pros: Affordable, easy to learn, great options for manual settings, great quality, a lot of great lens options, performs in all light conditions with a proper lens and settings
- Cons: Big and clunky, so you probably won't take it out much
- Sony a6600
- Pros: Same size sensor as the Nikon, similar capabilities in photo, much better video quality, compact
- Con: Difficult to learn
- Sony A7iii (This is the camera Brady uses for everything)
- Pros: Compact, great sensor, capable of doing everything asked of it with the right lens on (Sony 35mm f1.8 is Brady’s go-to)
- Cons: Big, heavy, expensive, complicated if you don't know what you're doing. You don't want this camera unless you're fully committed to learning and using it.
You should be honest with yourself. Ask yourself if you'll actually take the time to set up the animal for a great shot, pack around a heavy camera, and pull it out when you want to use it. If not, we suggest just getting a new cell phone. However, if you really want to get in to photography, get an entry level DSLR like the Nikon and use it on manual mode as often as possible. Watch YouTube tutorials, be critical of your own work, and try new things.
There are a lot of other great cameras out there. The ones listed are just the ones Brady has experience with. We encourage you to do your own research, and feel free to reach out to us with any camera and photography questions to capture your hunt the best way you can.