How To Photograph Your Big Game Trophy
Also take time to look around and decide if there are any environmental features you want included in the background of the photograph. For example perhaps the ruggedness, the steepness of the mountains, the openness of the prairie, or the denseness of the foliage may enhance the picture. Regardless of what you choose to add, be sure to keep the main focus on the animal. You can always take scenic or panoramic landscape photographs before, during, or after your hunt. Right now the main concern should be capturing your trophy and the moment on film.
Now that you have the animal in place where you want to take the photograph look around and see if the area needs any cleaning up. If you killed a deer, antelope, or turkey in an area where cattle sometimes graze you may want to remove any cow pies that might want to make a cameo appearance in your photograph. Also look around to make sure there isn’t excessive blood or guts on the ground around your subject.
Here is an example of not taking the time to clean up the animal. Note how it really distracts from an otherwise good photograph.
Now here is another photograph taken on the same hunt with time taken to clean things up and compose the photograph.
A few other things to look for would be back packs, garbage, vehicles, or anything else in the area of the photograph that would take away from the picture. Once you have policed the area turn your attention to the animal. If it is bloody take a little extra time to clean it up. Use snow or water if it is available to clean up, in particular, the face. Spend a little extra time cleaning around the nose and mouth. Also make sure the animal's tongue is NOT sticking out. Some tongues just insist on falling out about the time the camera person is about to take the photograph. I remedied this long ago. I just pull the tongue out as far as possible and remove it with my knife. I figure the animal doesn’t need it anymore anyway. Trust me...removing the tongue makes the picture taking less complicated and is one less thing to worry about.
Oops, note the top of the red pick up truck.
The same location, with a better angle, and more attention to the background lighting.
Now place the hunter behind the animal. Make sure the hunter has the blood cleaned off their hands. Be sure to see if there is any blood on the hunter’s clothes and try to hide blood stains with the animal, brush, rocks, logs, or whatever is available. Advise hunters to support the animal by some other way than holding the antlers or horns if possible. It sort of defeats the purpose of shooting a trophy if one covers up part of the antlers or horns with their hands. Look through your view finder and see if everything is how you would like it to be. See if the hunter’s hat is casting a strong shadow on their face. If so, either have them tip their cap back a bit or use your flash to reduce the shadow.
Here in the two photographs above the clothes of both hunters are a mess. Time should have been taken to clean up or hide the mud and blood on their clothes.
Now that everything is ready to go one must decide where the photographer is going to locate his or herself to take the pictures. Photographs of antlered or horned game and black bear tend to look better from a “worm's-eye” view. In other words get below the animal generally by lying on the ground downhill and/or in front of the animal. This also makes it much easier to skylight the animal’s horns or antlers. Just be sure to check for cactus, snakes, sharp rocks, or water before you lay down! Generally it is not a good idea to photograph game animals from above as it makes them appear smaller than they really are. If you can’t get below the subject, at least take the picture at eye level.
This photograph was taken at eye level.
Now, the same bear photographed from a “worms-eye” view. I think this example clearly shows what a difference getting closer and below the subject can make.
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