Make a good shot with your weapon, then with your camera

Spend some quality time behind the camera and make the buck of a lifetime into a lifetime memory with a top-drawer photo.

Hunters in Mississippi who take trophy bucks rarely turn down a trip to the taxidermist, even though a quality mount may cost hundreds of dollars. But few spend time taking quality photos of their kills. A shoulder mount over the fireplace will showcase a quality animal, but photographs from the day and place of the kill will better capture the event.

To make a great photographic memory, hunters need to be prepared and have a good digital camera ready in case a great buck ventures into range. While a professional-level camera will take photos of the best quality, the technology available in most consumer-grade digital cameras is more than adequate.

Today’s cell phones do much more than just make and receive calls, and if their cameras shoot more than 5 megapixels, they are a valid option after a trophy buck hits the dirt. The key is to keep the phone/camera perfectly still to take the best shot.

Settings are important, and while hunters can fine-tune the white balance, focus, aperture and shutter speed, trust the auto functions on cameras and smart phones in most conditions.

If you have a digital camera, a small tripod can be helpful and can be purchased for as little as $20. Also, almost all cameras have a timer feature that can be used in concert with a tripod to take photos of the hunter with his trophy when no help is available.

The only manual setting that should be adjusted is the flash. Even when sunlight is plentiful and the auto-flash indicator doesn’t turn on, adding flash can make a good shot fabulous. Adding flash is especially good when the sun is high, because shadows can ruin a great shot, and hunters are likely to be wearing a hat or cap ­that will cover his or her face with shadows. A flash eliminates shadows, and during low-light conditions, it provide the light necessary to bring out colors and the fine detail in a crisp, quality photo.

Beyond equipment, the biggest part of taking a good photo is the setup. The best photos are taken from the woods or in a natural setting where the deer was killed. Too many times, cameras aren’t pulled out until the deer is on the driveway, in the skinning shed or at the gas station where the background is ruined by an assortment of unwanted objects. Don’t let anything in the background take away from the photo.

The person holding the camera should set up several shots of the deer and hunter from different angles, while always keeping the sun at the camera’s back. Any time the sun is off to one side or the other, it will cast shadows and can create glare that will ruin a photo. On extremely bright, sunny days, a few shots should be taken in a shaded area with the flash activated. While good sunlight is a positive, too much can cause the hunter to squint, and unwanted glare is a risk.

The best photos include the entire hunter and deer with just a little extra space all around. Fill up the frame with the subject; you need to be relatively close to the subject for the camera’s flash and focusing capacities to take effect. You can always crop the photo later.

A once-in-a-life buck doesn’t come into range every day. Hunters should take precautions to take the best possible photos to preserve these special events for a lifetime of memories.