Photos sell it

You did all the work on the front end, so capitalize on it by taking great photos to promote your work.

Nov 15, 2019 #hunting#biggame

Originally published in the Fall 2019 issue of The Guidefitter Journal
Early light filters

Early light filters down through the leaves on this Limpopo kudu. Note the grass carefully trimmed and the kudu propped up so its head is upright, horns displayed. The light was filtered and soft because the photo was taken early in the morning.
Photo by Gary Lewis

We know how important first impressions are, but the truth is all impressions are important.
There is no place better associated with steelhead fishing than that strip of Washington and Oregon between the Coast Range and the Pacific. And on every steelhead river, there is a guide at the oars or on the tiller. Chances are he’s wearing gray sweat pants, a black hoodie and some sort of slip-on footwear – Crocs, waders or rubber boots. It’s just the way it is.
This guide can get away with looking sloppy because the other guides look sloppy, too.

“It doesn’t matter how I look,” he might say, “it’s how many fish I catch.”

That statement could be true, but let’s say no one catches fish. What are the clients going to remember? They’ll remember a guy in the baggy gray sweats with bait smeared on the belly of his black sweatshirt.
For an outfitter to make a good first impression on clients, the first thing to do is improve the appearance of the fishing or hunting professional.
Look the part. Wear the gear that the best-dressed dudes show up in. Put the gray sweats in the burn barrel. Use the black hoodie for waxing the truck.
If everything is working on a good fishing trip, the clients each catch two steelhead and the guide is in each of the pictures. The first rule of taking good pictures is to be in the picture.
Be in the picture, and be the focus of the picture. If there is a camera out, if someone is taking a picture with a phone, the guide should be ready for it. With a smile.

In 24 years of outdoor writing and communications, I have been on more guided trips than I ever would have imagined. With 10 years of television shows behind me, I have seen guides turn their backs on the camera every chance they get.
Of course, guides have to bait hooks, pull the anchor, get the mules and dress the elk, but they end up absent from the most important visual reminders of the experience. I have hundreds of images of successful hunters and anglers with trophy game and fish and the guide’s back is turned! Or worse, they are bent over, showing their backside to the camera.
This is the moment the client booked for, this is the moment the guide prepared for, this is the moment of truth. Engage the camera. Be in the picture. Be the subject of the picture. It will pay off for you.


Would you believe it all starts in the closet? Every day from here on out, the color is red. Or yellow or purple. Bright blue is good, too. But red is best. It stands out.
If the most important element of the image is color, let color be on the most important person in the picture — the guide. And there is one best color. Red.
Outfitters, you need to buy the clothes you want your guides to wear. Buy the hats you want them to wear. If there is a brand message shown, make sure it’s your brand.
Use the rule of thirds when composing pictures. Keep the horizon (or false horizon like a river bank or fence line) in the lower third or the upper third of the frame. Put the subject or multiple subjects in one third of the photo, not in the middle.
Get closer. In most cases, the picture is improved when the subject almost fills the frame. But don’t get too close. It helps to leave a little of the background behind the subject in case the picture is used in a magazine. Often, about 1/4-inch is trimmed off photos on the edge of a publication page.

Pictures look better if they are taken during the golden hour, that is, the first hour or last hour of day light. Midday light is the worst. Noon light is harsh. You can tell if the light is good by looking at the subject’s shadow. If the shadow is longer than the subject, the lighting is good. If the sun is high and the shadow is shorter than the subject, best to wait for better lighting.
We wear caps and hats to keep the sun out of our eyes. Ask the hunter to tip his or her hat back and take off dark glasses so that the viewer can connect through the eyes. The face is a very important part of the photo.
If there is a tree, a vapor trail or a telephone pole behind the subject, take a different angle.
Clean up any blood. Make sure the tongue is not hanging out of a deer's mouth. Police other unsightly aspects before you commit the picture to digital memory.

7 Tips to take better photos

  1. Remember the rule of thirds
  2. Get closer
  3. Time the shot for the best lighting
  4. Connect to the subject’s eyes
  5. Put texture in the background
  6. Police the picture
  7. Splash color in the photo

Guides often learn to take pictures by default, because clients keep asking them to take pictures. If a client hands over a camera or a phone and asks the favor of having his picture taken, then take them and compose them as you see fit. Then hand the camera to someone else and make sure you are in the photo with the client. After all, it took both of you to achieve the success.

Texas buck

This Texas buck was taken the evening before. Gutted and frozen overnight in a cooler, the next morning the hunters took the animal to a ridgetop and snapped the photos. Photo by Gary Lewis

Now, back to the subject of color. In the field, on a deer hunt or elk hunt, guides understandably don’t want to wear bright colors and opt for camouflage. And that's fine for the hunt, but when the camera comes out, it’s the opportunity for the guide to show up. A bright red t-shirt under a button-front camo shirt is a great way for your guide and your business to stand out. Now the guide is the most colorful person and the subject of the photo.

Sneaky? No. Just smart.
And your competition is not doing this.

Gary LewisOregon
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