This fall we're collaborating with several photographers in our hunting, fishing and outdoor community to bring you their insights for taking better images in the field. Taking photos that capture the spirit of our public lands and waters - and the experiences we have on them - is essential in communicating the value of our wild landscapes and the richness of our outdoor pursuits to the greater public. Whether you choose to publish your images in your own channels or support BHA's mission by submitting them to the 2020 Public Land Owner Photo Contest, we hope you enjoy this series. In this installment we hear from Paul Kemper, a multimedia creator, journalist, and conservation advocate based out of Bozeman, Montana. He cut his teeth working with Seacat Creative, Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, and Dangerous Cow Publishing. He now works for On Your Own Adventures, where the “why” of the business is to promote self-guided public land hunting and to create advocates for this cause.
Text and Photos by Paul Kemper
Making an image that has a profound impact on people may seem like something reserved for photographers who shoot the cover of TIME magazine with many thousands of dollars in equipment. The truth is that the photographer makes the image, not your equipment. Whether you are shooting on your phone or have upgraded to a dedicated camera of your own, understanding the basics as well as your own perspective can have some of the biggest impacts on making quality images. Three things I try to keep in mind when making a photograph are knowing my own personal story, where my images will be viewed, and what impact I’m trying to have.
What’s your story?
A pretty image is a pretty image. But what makes an image mean something, and how does it affect positive change? Before an image can mean something to someone who will view your work, it has to mean something to you. My grandfather and my uncle were my hunting mentors growing up, so I tend to gravitate towards photographing people who I look up to–like the shots of Tom Healy and Doug Krings above, some of the fiercest defenders of public land access in the arena–or people I’m mentoring who will join the fight in protecting public access to public land–like my friends Paul Coffy and Chad Ackerman, pictured below with Chad’s first deer. Your story is uniquely yours. Everyone has a responsibility to share their stories, and when we share them collectively, we can start to impact people and affect a change.
Where will your imagery be seen?
A simple but often overlooked tip for shooting better images is understanding where your imagery will be seen or where you want it to be seen. Will it be used as a header image? On a social feed? Maybe a banner or cover shot? Understanding where your images will be viewed will help you make better decisions when composing your shots.
What are we trying to affect change for, and who will affect that change?
If you’ve found this post, you’ve probably deduced that one of the biggest fights sportsmen and women face is the fight for our public lands. Whether it’s access to public lands, access to public waters, educating others about the work we do as sportspeople to benefit our wild places, waters, and wildlife, introducing new people to our ranks, or being good stewards to the public of how hunters and anglers operate, there are many battles to come. To affect a positive change, I recommend highlighting the places that need our support, as well as showcasing the people who depend on these places and are working to protect them. We are blessed to be able to recreate in some of the most incredible landscapes anywhere in the world. We’ll protect them by sharing them with those who might not know about them and celebrating the men and women in the area fighting for them in perpetuity.
Knowing your story and sharing from your perspective will help you produce the most authentic images you can. Understanding where your images will be viewed will help you compose your images with purpose and extent the use of an image to various mediums. Lastly, knowing what you want to protect or change can influence what to shoot and how to shoot it. Understanding your why is a quick way to frame images that will have the greatest impact and mobilize people to do good. Now, grab your bow/gun/rod and your camera and get out and enjoy our public lands!