16 Tips for Taking Perfect Hero Photos

16 Tips for Taking Perfect Hero Photos

Here are a few tips for taking great hero photos that can help you commemorate your trophy buck or your daughter's first bluegill, whether your  camera is a Go Pro or just a smartphone.

Composition DO: No Distractions

€¢ Fill the frame with the hunter/fisherman and the trophy.

€¢ Try to avoid standing over the subject and shooting down. A low angle usually looks more natural, and the deer antlers or the angler's head will look better against a sky background.

Photo via Brandon Carter on Camera Corner

Clean Up DO: Glistening Fish

€¢ It's always good to dip the fish in water just before you shoot the photo, to make it appear glistening and freshly caught.

Photo via Christy Waters on Camera Corner

Perspective DO: Positioning the Fish

When using a 35mm DSLR camera, remember that the extremes are often the best. Telephoto and wide-angle lenses offer the extremes of perspective, and both can be useful.

€¢ If a fisherman holds out a trophy bass away from his body, a wide-angle lens will make the fish look bigger than it really is.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Gear Storage

If you do have quality DSLR camera gear, it's important to have the confidence to carry it with you and know it will be safe. A waterproof container or case is a big help.

€¢ Some cases, like those made by Pelican, protect your gear from water, sunlight and dust, and are shockproof as well. They come in a variety of sizes, and allow you to carry extra gear like memory cards, batteries, flash units, lens cleaners, a phone and personal items wherever you go.

€¢ Having a camera on your phone ensures that you always have a camera available, but if you can be confident about keeping your more expensive gear safe and secure, you will be more likely to bring it with you and get the best photo possible.

Photo by Jeff Sundin

Perspective DO: Using a Telephoto Lens

€¢ A telephoto lens will compress the image into a tight frame that will have a sharp subject and a pleasingly blurred background.

€¢ A 'normal ' 50mm lens if usually the worst choice for such photos

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Clean Up DON'T: Bloody Animals

Take a minute to wipe as much blood from the animal or fish as you can and don't forget your hands as well. Tailgate shots are not ideal hero shot locations.

Photo via Camera Corner

Posing DON'T: Dirty Fish

Anglers should hold the fish horizontally, with the head slightly higher than the tail, and the dorsal fin slightly angled towards the camera. Nothing gives the fish more of a 'dead ' look than when you see more belly than back, or it's hanging vertically, or it's dry or in this case dirty.

Photo via Camera Corner

Composition DON'T: Cluttered Photos

Remember that the fish or animal is the star of the photo. Get in close, because you don't want to clutter the photo with branches, utility lines, houses, bridges, fences or other background distractions.

€¢ If you can't move, try to eliminate extraneous items within the photo and be aware of anything sticking up behind the subject, like a tree or a signpost appearing to 'grow ' out of the subject's head.

Photo via Camera Corner

Focus DON'T: Blurriness

You never want a photo to appear blurry or out of focus. If you're shooting with a smartphone, be sure to get close to the subject and allow the camera's phone to its auto-focus feature.

Photo via Camera Corner

Lighting DON'T: Not Using Flash

You don't want your photos to be backlit because your face and your trophy will be in complete shadow and hard to see.

Photo via Camera Corner

Posing DON'T: Appearing Reckless

Remember to present the trophy with respect, and make it appear as prominent in the photo as possible. You don't want to ride the deer like a Harley or treat your trophy in any way that appears reckless.

Photo via Camera Corner

Perspective DON'T: Shooting from Above

Along with making sure the photo is focused on your subject, you always want to make sure that the photo is shot from a lower level so as to make your trophy look bigger.

Photo via Camera Corner

Focus DO: All About the Eyes

If you have a DSLR camera, always focus on the eyes of the trophy. It's great if everything is in focus, but the eyes are most important of all.

€¢ It's actually good for the background to fall out of focus, thus giving more depth to the image and concentrating attention on the main subject. You can do this by utilizing a shallow depth of field, which is made possible by using wide apertures, such as f2.8.

€¢ But if you are using a smartphone or shooting on auto, just get as much light on the subject as possible.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Posing DO: Choosing the Right Position

Kneel down behind or next to the deer and try to position yourself under the antlers if you can, while tucking the hooves of the deer beneath it, thus propping it up and giving it a better appearance. If possible, angling your shooting position low enough to skylight the antlers.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Lighting DO: Using the Shade

You've finally saved enough money for that tarpon-fishing trip of a lifetime, or discovered a big-bass hotspot, or maybe drawn that coveted tag for the elk of your dreams. No matter what your favorite fish or game species, a great photo is sometimes the best trophy of all.

If possible, always use a flash, on cloudy or sunny days. This will accentuate colors, make the subject 'pop ' out from the background, and fill in shadows.

For soft, even light, try positioning your subject in the shade. If there is no shade, the photographer should have the sun shining over his shoulder, so it illuminates the face of the subject (instead of being behind the subject).

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Lighting DO: Using the Sun

Shooting into the sun can add wonderful highlights and make the photo more dramatic, but unless you can fill the subject with a reflector and/or use a strong flash unit to fill in the shadows, your subject will be under-exposed.

This photo was shot with the sun to the side and with a reflector which illuminates the fish and angler.

If you don't have a photo reflector, the windshield reflectors used to shade your vehicle's dashboard will work just fine. Just position it so that it reflects light onto your subject.

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

Ron Sinfelt has been the photo editor at Game & Fish/Sportsman Magazines since 1999, and has been on hundreds of fishing and hunting photo shoots around the country.

Share your hero photos

If you've got a great trophy photo you want to share with the world, be sure to upload it to Camera Corner right now!

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