Back to Reader Pics

Subscribe and get Outdoors Weekly delivered to your mailbox every week!

Quality Photos Don’t Happen By Accident
By Jerry Carlson

Bad Photo 1
This photo is taken too far away from the subject and contains way too much clutter. It is a disorganized mess!
Bad Photo 2
Although this photo does a better job of filling the frame, it is still too cluttered. In addition to this, the pheasants are a mess and the subject is distracted by others behind the scene.
Bad Photo 3
Even though the vest and hat add some color and the pheasants are cleaned up, the back of a truck still does little to enhance the setting.
Good Photo
This photo not only shows off the subject and pheasants, it also has a CRP setting that truly captures the environment of the hunt.


The opportunity is perfect. A hunter has recently completed a great day in the field and now wishes to capture the moment. The camera comes out, the shutter gets clicked, but will the photo do justice to the memory? Possibly not.

The art of photography is a complicated business that is difficult to learn. Professionals spend years training with others or take classes to learn all there is to know about taking pictures. They spend an incredible amount of time making sure the moment is captured the way they want it to be.

It is the forethought that is often the key to successful photography. Good pictures rarely just happen, they are made. They are the result of careful planning and good execution. And believe it or not, basic photography isn’t all that difficult.

I have been fortunate enough to have worked with a number of excellent photographers and have learned some simple pointers that keep my photos presentable. It starts with learning to be aware of what you are seeing through the viewfinder.

One of the biggest mistakes photographers tend to make is distance. All too often, the photos are taken too far away from the subject. This creates a panoramic view of the background but does little to show off the detail of the subject.

By learning to fill the frame with the subject, detail will be captured at a range close enough to see what is really going on. This ‘filling the frame’ concept includes balancing the amount of sky with the amount of foreground shown beneath the subject.

Utilizing the sun for correct positioning is another crucial part of basic photography. Whenever possible, the person taking the photo wants the sun at their back. This casts extra light on the subject and reduces shadows.

Using a flash or fill-in flash will also help reduce shadows and increase detail and clarity. This is especially true on bright days when the sun is directly overhead.

Too many times, the person that is taking the picture is so focused on the subject they forget to look at the background. Developing an awareness of what is seen through the viewfinder can help eliminate legs, branches, or other clutter in the background that will be a distraction in the overall photo.

While working with professional photographer, Brad Veenstra, I quickly learned about the importance of creating the setting for the photo. A natural background similar to the hunting conditions was important to Veenstra. This often took more time and some manipulation of the scenery, but the end results was great!

A bloody deer hanging in the garage or lying in the back of a truck does little to tell the tale of the hunt. A pose in a woodsy environment with colorful clothing will show the true essence of the experience in a more presentable manner.

Becoming a professional photographer takes years of training. Improving basic photography skill does not.

By spending a little extra time planning the photo and becoming aware of what is actually seen through the viewfinder, it is possible for the average photographer to greatly improve the quality of their photos.

Back to top

© 2009 Outdoors Weekly