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Shooting Better Photos

1. Remember Scale.

Whenever you take a photo, especially close up ones, place a standard sized object in the image to help viewers recognize its relative size.

The first photo to your right is a close up of a grackle dropping. The problem is without an object for scale, viewers are unable to determine just how big the dropping is.

The photo at the far right is an improvement because it used a standard sized pen to show the relative size of this vole hole and runway.

< Grackle dropping Vole hole and run

2. Watch for Shadows

Photography is all about light and learning how to capture that light in your camera. The first photo is a good one except for the shadow of the photographer appears in the picture. When taking a photo, look at the entire frame before clicking the button.

Note how the photo at the far right does not have the photographer's shadow.

badger hole badger hole

3. Watch your white-balance

White-balance refers to the way your camera handles colors. Different lighting situations require different settings on your camera. Incadescent lighting is different than flourescent or even hot flourescent lighting. If your images are too yellow, like the one to the right, then the camera is set too "hot" meaning it is capturing too much light. If the image has a blue tint, as the deer is pictured, then the camera is set too "cold" and it needs more light.

Failure to control white-balance will lead to poor coloring of images.

bear damaged treeDeer with mange bear damaged tree

4. Consider your Backdrop

Don't be so focused on the object you are shooting that you neglect to think about the background. Many well taken pictures have been ruined by distracting backdrops. Sometimes the backdrop makes it difficult to see the primary object. Remember, the eye can handle more subtleties than can be easily photographed.

Note how the trees in the background distract one's attention from the cupola. It would have been better to choose a different angle so that the trees completely provided covered the background or were absent from the background.

Contrast that with the web spinning spider. He is contrasted nicely against the cloudy sky.

Cupola spider on a web

5. Reduce Image Blur

Qualilty photos need to be clear and sharp because we need to be able to see the details to accurately identify the animal that left the sign.

Blur is caused by two different kinds of mistakes. Blurry photos may look clear in the viewfinder.

  • Camera was too close to the target. This mistake is a common one. People are correct that the closer the camera is to the target the more likely small details will be visible in the photo. Unfortunately, phtoographers forget that when you get within a foot to 6 inches of the object, the camera must be converted to Macro mode in order for the image to be sharp.
  • Shaky hands. Hand movement of the camera is the second way images become blurred. Steady camera's make for clear pictures. A tripod provides the best support, but laying the camera on a surface or against a tree can go a long way in helping to steady your hand.

Note: images almost always look sharp in the camera's view finder. You often have to open them up on a computer screen to see that they are blurry. Please check the clarity of your images BEFORE sending them.

6. Consider Context

In situations requiring diagnosis, taking an area photo can be important to help the inspector understand the situation where the damage or problem occurred. So while close up shots are essential, context or area shots are too.


7. Use the Highest Resolution

Set your camera to take photos at the highest resolution possible. New cameras typically are set at the lowest resolution. Right click on the image and then click properties to determine its size. Images in the 2 digit k range are too small. We want images in the 1000s k range. So not 56k but 1246 k.  

Photos Wanted

The ICWDM is presently building a photo library of wildlife damage management related images.

Our goal is to 

  • tell the story of wildlife damage management in pictures and video
  • help people find the images they need for PowerPoints,
  • assist media and publishers in getting quality images

A number of people have already generously contributed. Check out our Credits Page.

If you would like to learn more click Wildlife Damage Photos

University of Nebraska-Lincoln | School of Natural Resources

University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension | Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources

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