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Montana Untamed Editor

Montana Untamed editor for the Billings Gazette.

Good shot

Ron Hecker captured this great photo of Emily Hecker during last year's hunting season. Getting in close to the subject is important, as well as having good lighting.

Boom! The rifle shot’s roar creates a shrill ringing in your ears. The smell of gunpowder, sharp and tangy, fills your nostrils. Heart still hammering from a dose of adrenaline you slowly walk to the target of your shot.

Hunting heightens all of the senses. When successful it can be joyful. In the midst of all of that energy and excitement, it sometimes hard to remember to take a photo — or better yet, take a good photo.

Sharing photos from youngsters’ successful hunts with Billings Gazette’s readers is a blast. The photo quality, however, can vary widely. In hopes of reminding hunters and their accompanying photographers to capture a better image, I’d like to pass along a few tips.


More than any other quality, having good light for a photo is key. We all want to see the hunter’s face and their game. The easiest way to have good light is to make sure that the hunter is facing toward the sun.

Unfortunately, if it’s a bright day, this can create a lot of shadows. If the hunter is wearing a baseball cap, tip it back so their face isn’t shaded. Taking off sunglasses is another way to ensure we can identify the hunter.

On really bright days, it often makes more sense to take the photo in the shade. That way the light is even across the hunter, without dark and bright contrasts.

The orange or red light of sunrise and sunset can also be used to give a photo a unique warm tone.

Try to use flash as a last resort when it’s too dark, although a flash can also be used during the day to get rid of those pesky shadows. You just have to make sure not to overexpose the subject, making them too bright, which may require a couple of shots to get everything dialed in right.

Up close

Don’t be afraid to get close to the subject of the photograph and fill the camera’s frame with the hunter. Too often the camera is far from the hunter. Scenery is nice to give a sense of place, but what most people want is to see is the hunter and their game.

With a good camera a photographer can stand back from the hunter and zoom in with their lens. This helps compress the view so that features in the background appear closer. This is the best way to include unusual scenery.


Sometimes the best angle isn’t straight on. Try snapping a photo by kneeling down.

If you want to have fun, change the perspective by having the animal close to the camera and the hunter farther away, making them look small in comparison. The opposite of this is the traditional fish photo where you hold the fish closer to the camera to make it look huge.

Before taking the shot, make sure there aren’t weird things like a branch, blade of grass or power pole rising up out of the animal or the hunter, which can be distracting.

The animal

Amid all of the excitement of the successful hunt, try to remember to shoot a photo of the hunter and his or her game before you’ve gutted it. Also take the time to make sure the animal’s tongue isn’t hanging out of its mouth.

Typically it’s easier to understand the size of an animal’s antlers, like a large bull elk, if they are facing the camera. For turkeys, don’t forget to flare the tail feathers.

Although it’s great to get the whole animal in the photo for your scrapbook, for publication in the newspaper it’s much better to have a much tighter shot of just the hunter and the game.

Try to remember to take the photo when you are in the field, not after the buck is loaded into the back of a pickup or hanging in the garage.

And repeat

Take several shots from different angles. It does take a bit of time, but it will pay off with a better photo. Plus, the more photos you take the better you will get and you can see what techniques work best. Unlike the old days when people were concerned about wasting film, that’s not a problem with digital images. You can take several shots and winnow them down to the best one or two of the batch.

Don’t forget to have the successful hunter smile and check the photo to make sure they have their eyes open. Remember, 20 years from now the photo will be important, so take the time to capture a great memory.

Remember us

Preserving a successful hunt, scenic shot or fishing trip has become so much easier since cameras were incorporated into cellphones. Now, most of us have an easy way to share photos from a successful hunting trip. Keep us in mind when you do get that shot and send it our way by email to:

As always, we need a bit of information for the caption, so please include your name, phone number, when the photo was taken, the photographer’s name, where the person in the photo lives and the general area where the photo was taken.

The Gazette runs Your shots in the Thursday Outdoors section and on the Sunday Outdoors page in the back of the Sports section, as well as online at