The biggest mistake people often make in taking photos of themselves with game they bag is rushing through it. Prepping the animal(s) and paying attention to the details that make for great photos takes time. In most cases, there’s no need to rush it.
How to set up animals for photography is part of the training that African professional hunters receive to get their licenses. They know just how to position the animals to show off their trophy features in the best possible ways.
Here are a few tips that will help you take better trophy photos:
1) The Animal’s Eyes — professional photographers all know the trick about “taking the eyes with you.” In their camera bags, the pros carry a set of taxidermy eyes for the species they will be photographing. These look like large contact lens that are colored just as the animals’ eyes are, and allow the light to glint in the eye giving that spark of life you see in the photos in the big hunting magazines. It’s impossible to get that glint naturally in the eye of a dead animal.
2) Remove All Blood — this is a pain when you’ve made a well placed shot and blood is bubbling from the animals mouth and nose, but it’s essential to good photography. Take along paper towels or, better yet, wet wipes to accomplish this task and don’t be afraid to stuff the mouth and nostrils to staunch the blood flow. If the animal has bled significantly on the ground, move it to reposition so you won’t see the pooled blood on the vegetation or rocks.
3) Be Aware of the Background — look carefully at what’s around and behind the animal you’ll be photographing. No gut piles, no trash, no packs or other gear scattered around.
4) Shoot with the Light at Photographer’s Back — that means the light is shining on the animal and the hunter’s face. Try some shots with the flash turned on and others with the flash turned off.
5) Get as Low as You Can — a low angle always shows the animals in their best light. You’ll make average racks and sized animals look big and big animals look enourmous!
6) Shoot in the Natural Environment — if at all possible, take the photos right on the location where you took the animal. You’ll love having photos that cement the memory of the exact place where you hunted and were successful. If that’s not possible, set up pictures in a natural background similar to where you hunted — not in camp or in the bed of a pickup truck or strapped to an ATV.
7) Position the Animal Tastefully — no shots of the animal hanging on the meat pole; no conquering hero shots with your foot on the beast’s back; no photos of you astride the animal’s back.
8) Check the Gun Safety — positioning firearms correctly in the shot can be a challenge. Remember that the viewers of the photograph will only see them in two dimensions. Even though a gun may actually have been pointed in a safe direction, in the 2D photo, it may look questionable. Look at the scene carefully and make certain there can be no mistake about where the gun is pointed. Also open the action for the photo if at all possible.
9) Take LOTS of Pictures — but don’t take the same picture over and over. Adjust the camera settings, change position slightly, recheck focal points, etc. The more you take, the better chance of having some outstanding shots.
10) SMILE — hunting, and especially hunting success, should make us overwhelmingly happy! If it doesn’t then we shouldn’t be out there. Your smile should invite everyone who sees the photo to join in one of the happiest moments of your life!