Photography (no matter what kind of camera you have) is all about light and how to use what is available. If you're using a point & shoot with auto settings the camera will do most of the thinking for you by adjusting ISO (a measure of the camera's sensitivity to light), Aperture (the size of the hole in the lens controlling the amount of light let in), and Shutter Speed (how long that hole is left open for the light) to the amount of light detected at the time you're focusing the camera in for the picture. Shooting with an SLR camera, and out of the auto settings can allow you to get a bit more creative with the particular settings, even though the camera can still do some of the thinking depending on the mode you're shooting in.
So what about light? How do we need to use it? Well fortunately for us, most of the time we're out hunting it's either dawn or dusk, which coincidentally is also referred to in photography as the "golden hour". By definition, the golden hour is the first hour after sunrise, or the last hour before sunset. You've probably had those evenings on stand in the fall when the colors of the leaves in the last hour of shooting light is just amazing. Especially in mid to late October with the sun setting against a bold blue backdrop makes the reds, oranges, and yellows of the leaves just pop out in contrast. That's why it's called the golden hour. The sun is low in the sky, so it's impact on light is much softer, and subtle than it is at high noon when the sun is directly overhead. The shadows are subdued and the amount of light is lessened, making the general view easy on the eyes. So if you kill that big buck at last light, and don't find him until well after dark, just wait until the next morning if at all possible to take your trophy pictures during the golden hour.
This also leads into some other points. If you're going to wait until the next morning to take the pictures, then take some extra time to clean up the appearance of the deer. Use a damp cloth to wipe away any blood from the mouth, nose, and hide of the deer while it's still wet and easy to remove. When you're posing the deer, if you're taking pictures after it's been field dressed, try to either position the open cavity away from the lens or place your bow over the opening to help disguise the area. Make sure the deer's tongue is tucked back in it's mouth too. It just makes for a better overall picture, especially if you plan on sharing the picture with those that fall into a non-hunting audience, or if you're going to have it set up as your screen saver at work.
If time is of the essence, and waiting for optimal lighting isn't an option because you have to work tomorrow morning, then take a look at the light around you. Is the brim of your hat going to cast a shadow over your face because the sun is high in the sky? Look for some shade to set up in for picture time to try and eliminate those harsh shadows. If there's no shade to work with then try changing the camera's flash settings so that the flash goes off to help lighten up those otherwise dark areas.
|This picture was around high noon, taken where the buck fell. I should have either cleared out the foreground, and used fill flash to get rid of the shadows, or drug the deer 20 yards and into the woods for some shade.|
Try to take your pictures in a natural setting. Not that tailgates are unnatural, believe me I have my fair share of tailgate pictures, and still take some like that every season, but mix it up a bit. Try to see what around you could work in replacement of the tailgate. A picture of a pile of geese draped over an old log laying alongside the riverbank with the water as a backdrop tells more of the story from the hunt.
|I didn't ride him like a rodeo bull, but I wish I had pictures of this buck in the field when he was killed in mid October. The fall setting would've been much better than the truck bed in the fast food parking lot.|
Dig into the details. Take a few minutes and look around at the details of nature. Take pictures of the spiderwebs still dripping with dew as the morning sun is breaking into the horizon. Before you pull that blood covered arrow out of the dirt, take a couple close up pictures of the fletching, or the drops of blood still pooling up on the oak leaves. Look out on to the water where your shell casings are floating along side the feathers from the ducks you just dropped out of the sky. Take pictures of the details, the little things that just look cool!
Try taking pictures from a different perspective. Get down low, with your belly on the ground and shoot upward. Stand on the roof of your truck and shoot downward, giving an aerial perspective. Take a knee, shoot sideways, set the self timer to shoot in multi-shot mode so that a series of shots are taken, just try doing something different. That's the beauty of digital cameras as well! You get instant feedback to know if you were able to get "the shot" or if something needs to be changed or altered. You never know what might turn out to make for a memorable picture to look back on someday down the road, so shoot away and have fun.