I’ve given plenty of photo seminars over the years. I used to include discussion of depth of field, shutter speeds, etc. during which most people’s eyes would glaze over. You will still get more from your camera if you learn about those technical matters, but the truth is that modern digital cameras’ programs will get you by just fine in most situations if you don’t want to be bothered. Since there is always room for improvement in your photos—especially those being submitted for publication—I’d like to explore some simple ideas that include nothing more than composition. You can use these ideas when shooting with nothing more complicated than your cell phone.

Consider this suggestion for your basic “hero” or “success” shots. In the vast majority of those I see, the successful hunter is holding the animal’s head, smiling broadly, and staring straight into the camera. That’s why they’re known in the trade as “grab and grin” shots. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what you want, but the immediate effect is to make the hunter dominate the frame and become the subject of the photo. I happen to think that the animal and the setting are just as important.

Just look what happens when you have the hunter grin a little less conspicuously and look at the animal instead of the camera. This shows respect for the fallen game and makes the hunt appear less self-centered. Even if you’re not shooting for publication, you’ll likely find that your friends enjoy these shots more than the usual even if they can’t quite tell you why. Looking off into the distance as if you were describing the shot to a hunting partner will accomplish much the same effect.

Uncertain which kind of shot you want? With today’s cameras that’s an easy problem to solve. Take a bunch of shots of all kinds and save the ones you like. Now that film is gone that won’t cost anything, and you’ll have the best of both from which to choose.