How To Take Hunting Photos
We have a tradition in my hunting crew that revolves around the opening day of hunting season. We call it "Bucky Sunday" after my father. We spend the day before opening day sitting around in comfortable clothing, eating like kings, playing cards and watching football. At hunting camp a few seasons ago, we broke out the photographs from the previous four decades of hunting adventures with our friends, families, benefactors, miscreants and mentors. We sifted through those old photos for hours reliving some of the best days of our lives. When you go hunting, you may shoot something worthy of a mount, but it turns out that some of the less trophy-worthy game may have the best memories.
I have a lifetime of practice making perhaps average whitetail bucks look like really nice whitetail bucks. These tips can help you take some great pictures so that you can capture your hunt and share it with generations to come.
First and foremost is achieving the proper perspective. Get the photographer down on the ground taking pictures up at the subject. Try to get the camera within a foot of the ground (given that the terrain is level). The animal and hunter should fill the frame without cutting off any of the subject while capturing the right amount of background. With today's digital cameras, it's easy to crop photos if desired at a later time. Also, make sure the sun is behind the photographer, or the pictures will be over-exposed.
Second, make sure that the background is far away (at least twenty yards). Don't have trees, brush, your garage, or anything else anywhere close. Preferably, pick a lovely landscape like a field, pond, forest, pine trees, sunset, sunrise, sky, or mountains in the distance. You want the center of attention to be the hunter and game, but this is like painting a picture. The background can ruin the center of attention if not chosen wisely. Compose the shot like you are going to enlarge it and hang it on the wall of your home.
Third, post the hunter sitting or kneeling behind the animal. Putting the hunter behind the animal focuses the eye on the aspects of the harvest and gives a sense of the animal being bigger than it may really be. A little helper here is to have something for the hunter and photographer to sit or kneel on. It may take awhile to get just the right photo and having a hot seat or the like takes a little pressure off of the joints. In addition, never have the hunter hold the antlers or horns. Either prop the head up on its own nose (more common in African game photos because of the angle of the horns), or have the hunter slip his or her hand just under the neck. If you see a grip and grin photo with hands wrapped around the bases of the antlers and it still looks like a whopper ... it probably is a whopper! Hands wrapped around the antlers/horns can give away that maybe this one isn't the biggest in camp. But, if it is, it will look even bigger.
Fourth, take at least twenty pictures (this costs nothing extra with a digital camera). Vary the angle of the photo all over the place. Make sure the antlers or horns are not obstructing the hunter's face. Take some photos where the hunter's face is framed between the antlers or horns. Have the hunter sometimes look directly into the camera, and other times looking past the photographer to the sides and above. Make sure the hunter is smiling like he or she just shot the trophy of a lifetime.
Last, describe the hunt in writing or video. With today's video camera phones that take high definition video, you don't need any other special equipment. Detail where it was shot, the shot placement, the reason you hunted the spot, the standout equipment that made the hunt possible, who you were hunting with, and the weather conditions. Even if you don't have access to video, it's nice to jot down the items above for later (maybe decades) reference.
Remember, harvesting game and making memories with friends is what it's all about. If you don't have photos and details about the hunt, the memories will fade with time. You can relive the experience with minimal effort and pass on your passion for generations to come.