Wall-Worthy Trophy Photograph Tips

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You planned for your hunt and when the time came to close the deal, you performed flawlessly.  Now what?  Of course you have to take proper care of your game to prevent meat spoilage, but is there anything else.
 
There definitely is – you have to take photographs of you and your trophy.  Sometimes these are referred to as “hero shots.”  From viewing photographs of white tail bucks in the back of pick up trucks or hanging in the skinning shed, it seems that these photographs are often just an after thought.
 
I hear from hunters who take a nice trophy animal that the cost of mounting prevents them from taking their trophy to the taxidermist.  Well, a nice photograph in a nice matted frame makes a nice reminder of the hunt that you can hang on the wall.  Personally, I enjoy the photographs I have on my wall as much as I do my mounts.
 
So now that we are in agreement that we need to take good photographs of our trophy how do we do it?  Here are some tips to get you on your way to taking quality trophy photographs.
 
First, however, compare the two turkey pictures.  One was taken before I was given an in-field course in picture taking and the other after.  The difference is unmistakable.  Both are good enough to show your friends, but which one would you like to get framed and have hanging on your wall?  I think the answer is an easy one.  So onto the tips to get you started in taking photographs that are wall worthy.
 
Learn from others – look on the web for pictures of successful hunters and see what works and what doesn’t. 

Search the internet for tips on photo taking before you leave for your hunt.  There is a plethora of free information out there so take advantage of it.
 
Do not get too close – leave room in the photograph for the background.  The scenery is often one of the highlights of a hunting trip so don’t overlook it in your photograph.
 
Clean the animal up.  Wipe off dirt, debris and blood if you can.  Sure blood is part of hunting, but a bloody trophy just doesn’t look as good as a clean one.  Plus, not all spouses are accepting of putting photographs of bloody animals on the wall, but will most likely tolerate one that looks life-like and is clean.
 
Put that tongue back into the mouth or just remove it.  Nothing detracts from a trophy photograph than a floppy tongue protruding and hanging lifelessly from the animal.  It only takes a second to put it back into the mouth or to just cut it off.
 
Get low to the ground.  Photographs taken from a standing position just don’t come out as well as those taken from ground level so kneel or lay down when taking the pictures.
 
Pack a small tripod.  Many spotting scope tripods will work on our digital cameras and can be used when we are hunting solo and no one is around to take your photograph.  If you don’t have a tripod then you can use your backpack or find a stump. 
 
Most cameras have a self-timer.  Figure out how to use it before you go on your hunt.  If not, you may become frustrated and just not take a photograph.
 
Take a lot of pictures.  Professional photographers take hundreds of photographs just to get that one good one.  You don’t have to take that many, but it will take more than one to get that just right shot.
 
Use these tips and you’ll come home with a photograph that is wall-worthy and that will keep the memory of the hunt alive for years to come.  Plus, despite what my wife says, they are art!

Comments

arrowflipper's picture

staging

Thanks for some great tips.  I agree that a good photograph makes all the difference in the world.  I have a friend that is adamant about taking good pictures of your animals and treating them with respect.  It takes just a little staging and you end up with a great product.

I so agree with the tip about taking lots of pictures.  I remember that I used to say that if I got one decent picture out of a roll (does that date me) that I would be happy.  When I'm taking pictures of a fallen animal, I try to get as many as I can, often bugging my hunting partner to no end, taking picture after picture.  You mentioned that you shouldn't get too close; I've found that more people stand far away than close.  I like to get in close enough to see all the details. 

I like to hold my camera both vertically and horizontally.  As a rule of thumb, take horizontal pictures with the camera horizontal and vertical pictures with it vertically.  It just drives me nuts to see some people standing and the picture horizontal, with way more background than necessary.

I also try to take some pictures with the flash and some without.  Especially at dusk or early morning, the lighting can make a huge difference. 

Another item that you didn't mention is the quality of camera.  I used to take the old throw-away camera on my hunting trips because I didn't want to ruin our good one.  Not any more; I take the best I have.  I want those pictures to turn out as good as possible.  As you said, the cost of taxidermy is high enough that we don't have all that many animals mounted.

Thanks for bringing to light a bunch of good tips on taking pictures.  I for one can say I have come home only to be disappointed by the pictures I ended up with, and there's nothing you can do at that time.

hunter25's picture

Although I have many hunting

Although I have many hunting picture very few of them are of good quality. I learned through trial and error and do pretty good now but wish I had gotten advice like this 20 years ago. Getting low to the ground and including more scenery is one of the best ones.

The biggest thing is to take a lot of pictures, it seems like we are always in a hurry to get things done and skip taking enough. With digital cameras there is no excuse for taking as many as you can. It doesn't cost any more and you only need to print the ones that come out good. As with most things I don't always take my own advice but these photo memories are getting to be far more important to me as I get older and make a much better effort now to get them right.

groovy mike's picture

good tips, thanks

good tips, thanks.

Taxidermy is great and I sure like to eat the game I bring home, but I confess that a photoghraph probably really is the best trophy we can bring home.  It is shareable not only with those around us but also via email and the internet and durable - capable of communicating the captured moment for decades - or even for the next generation after we are gone.

I have taken bad photos and good ones.  There are some I don't show to anyone else.  There are some that any hunter would be proud to show on their den wall - even to non-hunters.  Cleaning up the game before teh photo (and putting the tongue back in!) are really good reminders.  Normally I just try to wipe the blood away with leaves and it doesn't do as good a job as I would like it to.  But if I pack just a handful of paper towels and maybe some of those packets of hand wipes - they would be just the stuff to do a quick clean up before picture taking.

Thanks for the reminders for me and the visual lessons on how to set up a good photo too!

cuffs68's picture

You are so right Jim! You can get those moments back!

Jim,

Great tip!  On my recent hunt, just about a month and a half ago, I took my first typical muley buck and he is currently at the taxidermist for a nice shoulder mount.  This was a solo hunt for me, none of my friends had the time or the preference points to join the hunt, so I had to take my own photos with a tripod.

I bought a small tripod from Cabelas that works like a snake-light, you can wrap it around a tree branch or hiking pole stuck in the ground.  You do get winded pretty quick running back and forth after hitting the self-timer on the camera, but if you place your buck on level ground or downhill, getting to your prize is easier!

I use a Nikon Coolpix L3 digital camera, it is a little out dated, I think I bought it in 2004, but it still takes really nice pictures and is very light.  Just a little tip for those that backpack and pack light, take the batteries out of your camera and store them separately.  This will prevent anything pushing up against the "on" button on the camera and running down your batteries before you get the camera out of your pack.

And if your camera can accept separate SD cards, get one that will hold a lot of pics.  You can never have enough photos of your trophy and it makes picking out the right one for that nice 8x10 frame easier!

Good luck and be safe!

cuffs68

jim boyd's picture

I aagree this is a great

I aagree this is a great tip.

Early on, we did not photograph much and I hate the fact that I can not look back on the memories.

Later on, we began to photograph more but I do not have a single photo that I consider to be frame worthy.

I will definitely begin to focus on this and even practice it with the self timer.

I take lots of photos for work - and I do use the adage that 100 will net 1 - so no reason not to apply it to our most favorite pursuit - hunting!

Again, great tip!

Jim

CVC's picture

It is so easy nowadays with

It is so easy nowadays with the digital camera.  When I started writing stories about the older hunts I had to go through bunches of old photographs and scan them in.  I used to lug around a big ol' 35 mm camera, be careful about how many pics I took so I wouldn't run out of film and then go get it developed.  I remember the advent of the one hour photo shop.  Before you'd have to wait days to get your photographs.

CVC's picture

That is a good point about

That is a good point about not revealing your hunting location, especially on public ground.  I must admit that I'd be tempted to hunt a public location if I saw a picture that identified it.  Not necessarily a jealous hunter, but one that doesn't look a gift horse in the mouth.

You're right about practice.  I am getting better at taking pictures and instructing those who take my picture how to do it.  I have a little tripod that I keep in the truck to take my own picture now.  My pictures that I have mounted are real trophies to me.

gatorfan's picture

Good tip

This is a very good tip!

 

I would like to offer a few additions.

First, if you are hunting an area that you consider your "honey hole", take a couple of close-up photos that show less background.  You can use those photos to show your hunting buddies or to post on your local hunting forum.  I don't know how many PMs I've sent to guys that are showing their trophies off online.  I know of a guy that killed a very nice archery buck this past Sunday.  He has two pictures up on a forum and is posing with his buck and there is a very familiar and recognizable background in both pictures.  Sometimes it's better to keep people guessing!  You never want to underestimate the imagination of a jealous hunter.  Second, for the purpose of framing your pictures or showing them to people you trust, take a few from different angles.  Always try to put the sun behind you but if it's overhead, just make sure you pay attention to shadows.  Sometimes using your flash for close-up shots during a bright sunny day really does wonders for the shadows that you would normally overlook.  Lastly, practice, practice, practice! Take your camera out on your scouting trips and practice taking photos of things at different distances.  Remember, you usually only have one chance to take that field "hero shot".  Once you skin and butcher the animal, you'll have to wait to fill another tag in order to improve your skills.

 

ecubackpacker's picture

+1, gatorfan. You have to

+1, gatorfan. You have to keep them guessing. It doesn't always have to been on public land. Sometimes your friends will hunt your stand without asking or tell others about where the deer was killed. It's better to let them guess where you killed it.
CVC, great tip...what you don't like the first pic of the turkey on the brick(?)...it adds character. LOL
seriously, thanks for posting.

GooseHunter Jr's picture

That is a great tip.  I

That is a great tip.  I always hate to see any animal that has been taken and then for someone to not take the time to clean the blood and guts off on an animal before they take a picture.  I always tale my time when it comes to my pictures.  I take alot of pride in all my pictures even though most have been does or cows!

CVC's picture

We cleaned up the mountain

We cleaned up the mountain goat I took in Canada, but that was the best we could do.  I do have a photograph with the goat spotless.  I found a guy on another site who will photoshop the picture for you.  He takes out all the blood and it is nice and clean.  I show that photoshop picture to non-hunting friends who are a little squimish about blood.