The National Wild Turkey Federation's director of photography shares the secrets to better outdoor photos when hunting, fishing and nature-watching.
I recently caught up with Matt Lindler at a session he was teaching on photography.
The editor of Turkey Country Magazine andPhotography Director for the National Wild Turkey Federation, Matt has won numerous prestigious photography awards. During a break, Matt and I discussed simple things anyone can do to improve their outdoor photography.
1) Best ways to shoot photos in outdoor lighting
For starters, we discussed managing lighting outdoors. “The best light for photos is early or late,” commented Matt. But sometimes you have to take what you get. When that happens, says Matt, “Try to have the light coming from behind the photographer.” That eliminates some of the shadows that fall on the front of the subject in the photo.
2) Don't forget the background
When taking photos, it is common to look only at the subject. “But take a look at the background, as well,” suggests Matt. If you are shooting a hunting photo, you may not want a garbage can behind your deer. Natural landscapes in the background provide more mood to the photo than a billboard or power line.
3) Shoot when the action is happening
Another common habit of photographers is to pick up the camera after the action is over. “Action shots always look better than posed shots,” says Matt.
When I am fishing with outdoor photographers we always laugh about everyone running for their cameras rather than the rod when there's a bite. We all want the shot of the angler, rod bent, concentrating on the fish, and talking to himself. After the fish is on board, anglers become stoic and everything looks lifeless in comparison.
If you do pose a shot after the fish is on the boat, you may need to put some life back in the angler. Have him or her remove sunglasses as their eyes add a lot to the photo. Once you bring the camera up, if you see no expression on their face, tell them a joke to break the tension.
4) Go for the eyes
On the subject of eyes in the photo, the same goes for deer, other game or fish. I want their eyes and the outdoorsman’s eyes in the photo, though I am less concerned if the fish doesn’t laugh at my joke.
5) Optimize your phone's camera for a good shot
Many of us rely on our phones to take photos and there is nothing wrong with that. The optics on many phones are better than on a lot of cameras. On this subject, Matt recommends checking to confirm your phone camera is set to its highest resolution. This will provide more detail and clarity in the image.
6) Consider your surroundings when choosing the camera you bring
On the subject of cameras, my philosophy is that the camera with you always takes better photos than the one you left at home. So even though I have expensive gear for photo sessions, every time I fish I keep a pocket camera where I can get it in an instant. Since dropping one in a mountain stream and seeing it could neither swim nor hold its breath, I now carry one that is waterproof.
7) Don't be afraid to go vertical
One more simple idea is to turn the camera vertical on occasion. Some scenes look better horizontally while others look better vertically. If you shoot both, you can decide later.
8) Add some depth
Last, if you are shooting scenics or photos of property, there are several things you can do to improve your photos. As Matt mentioned earlier, early morning or late afternoon light will look better than the harsh light and shadows you get at mid-day. One thing I like to do on photos of woods and streams is to give the photo depth. You can do this by having things in the foreground in focus that help frame the scene that shows up farther away. This provides the perspective you get with your eyes naturally. It’s a way to transfer this depth to a flat image.
Photos can recreate events, provide documentation or tell a story. Making them better only takes a little thought just before you press and hear the shutter click.
Above: Matt Linder demonstrates outdoor photography technique for a group of South Carolina Outdoor Press photographers, shooting up-close images of the new Pioneer airbow from Crosman. All photography in this article by Jim Mize.