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Any hunting trophy picture tips or advice?

This is a discussion on Any hunting trophy picture tips or advice? within the Hunting Pictures forums, part of the HUNT AFRICA category; I would love to hear some advice or some "how to" tips for what it takes to get the best ...

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    Safari Chick's Avatar
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    Default Any hunting trophy picture tips or advice?

    I would love to hear some advice or some "how to" tips for what it takes to get the best hunting trophy photos. I know there is kind of an art to it or so I've heard, but I would love it if someone would explain what they are to me...

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    There are many tricks, but thats what they are. Use them to highlight your trophy and get good shots, but please take some good old photos that do not have the animal or yourself posed for it. The classic hunting shots are those natural shots that do not have much posing.

    The most used trick is to lay flat on the ground and take the photo at level with the animal, with the hunter sitting further away from the animal. This makes the animal look bigger. Angles can be manipulated too. Try as much as possible to have the horns against the sky.
    Ryan Shallom (CEO)
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    You should also be aware of your surroundings and perhaps some outstanding scenery you want to use for the background of your photos, keeping the lighting in mind of course. Also be sure to clean the area in front of you and the animal so that there are not long pieces of grass or sticks infront of you and remove excess blood.

    I believe a bit of blood is OK, and for fellow hunters it is not an issue but for others or if you contemplate the photos maybe be used in an editorial submission then you are going to want to keep the photos as tasteful as possible.

    Also, be sure to 'compose' your shots properly and try to fill the frame as much as possible for most pictures, unless you are deliberately trying to include something else in the photo. Take some vertical shots as well for a little diversity.

    It is pretty standard now to set the animal up for grip and grin shots, but I agree with Ryan, take some candid hunting photos for yourself and others you associate with and know the drill.

    Most pictures taken with digital now are on 'auto' setting. Make sure you play with your camera a bunch prior to the trip so that you can use different modes and perhaps 'bracket' a few shots if you think the lighting may be an issue on 'auto'.

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    The suggestions in the previous posts by Shallom and Skyline are good ones and when followed lead to great field photos. However, I have a suggestion that I feel, with few exceptions, should never be done. That is, sitting on or straddling the animal. We’ve all seen it. The photos with the hunter sitting on the back of the fallen animal as if riding a bucking bronco. I believe those photos show extreme disrespect for both our prey and our sport and should therefore be avoided.

    The exception to that I suppose may be in the case of elephants. Maybe I’ve come to accept it with elephants because so many of the old classic photos from 100+ years ago show hunters sitting on them. However, when I killed my elephant I had no wish to climb aboard for a photo on the back of the magnificent beast. But as with the old time photos the local tribes people obviously did not share my thoughts on the matter. At one point while photographing the animal and prior to the beginning of the field butchering process and ‘trunk offering’ to the chief, the local tribes people collected around the fallen animal. While most did sit on the ground in front of the animal there were several others who climbed on top and sat. Ironicaly although I do not appear in those particular photos with my elephant they turned out to my my favorite and most memorable photos of that hunt.

    Yes, that did break my photo ‘respect’ rule, but on the other hand in this particular instance it was ‘their’ elephant, ‘their’ country and ‘their’ way of doing things. But I do remain firm in my belief that the photos which show the hunter sitting on, and most especially those photos showing the hunter ‘riding’ the animal, show extreme disrespect and should be avoided. Okay, just my opinion, throw rocks if you wish.
    Last edited by Big5; 08-14-2009 at 08:39 AM. Reason: spelling
    There is only one degree of dead . . . there are many degrees of wounded

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    Big 5..............no rocks coming from this direction.

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    All of the above is good advice. I'd like to add that you should listen to your PH, too.

    Africa's professional hunters, for the most part, have learned from experience how to pose the various animals found where you will be hunting. When I was unsure about someone, though, I did the setup myself and photographed the PH with my animal first and then asked him to stand, squat or lie exactly as I did when he took my photo.

    Also, remember that film is the cheapest part of your hunt. Back when I was selling articles, I used to make 24 exposures (or more) for each animal I shot. I'd take two or three shots from one position, then move the animal or pose it and myself differently and shoot two, three or four more. I'd continue this until I'd used up the roll.

    I must have been a horrible photographer, because there usually would be only one or two shots in a roll of film that would "jump out" as being the best photo worthy of reproduction. In some shots that were good in every other way, I'd have my eyes closed or a goofy look on my face, the animal's horns or antlers would look smaller than they actually were, or something in the background or foreground would be distracting.

    Taking just one or two field photos of your game is not enough.

    Bill Quimby

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    Bill... even more convenient now with digital technology I had the same problem with film and ended-up with only a handful of 'good' photos from a 36 exposure roll. With a combination of digital camera and laptop, now we can just click away and check them on a big screen to restore memory and discard the not-so-good photos.

    But you are absolutely right about 'taking photos'. Take as many as you want and in various angles and positions. It is your only chance - there are no do-overs in the bush and you may regret taking just a couple when you find your cap shadowing your face or your eyes shut. My camera policy is - shoot! shoot! shoot! Bunny hugger's delight.

    Points to note - angle/lighting/background/foreground/centre/shades.
    Ryan Shallom (CEO)
    www.wild-footprints.com
    Tanzania, East-Africa.

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    Excellent advice so far. I especially agree with the points of PRACTICING before leaving on the trip, and bracketing. Taking the opportunity to practice pics while going on conditioning hikes in the months before leaving is a must. It a multi-plus approach - you get to work the kinks out of binos, boots, jackets, slings, AND cameras prior to being on the far side of the Earth. Also, practice uploading pics if digital, changing film spools if 35mm, and using zoom and other features for both. Additional thoughts:

    * Try some black & white 35mm pics ... they make some beautiful, classy shots of trophies and scenery.

    * Get some lens filters and try them, the light in Africa can vary tremendously !

    * Work on some extreme closeups too, you never know what will persent itself !

    I'll try to post some pics here to illustrate bracketing and closeups:






    Gemsbok at Sossusvlei, June '08






    Springbok at Sossusvlei, June, '08


    Wildflower, Deadvlei, June, '08


    Scorpion (that stung me), Hauschabfontein, June, '08

    Enjoy !
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    AfricaHunting.com is online now Jerome Philippe, Founder of AfricaHunting.com
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    Thanks for the great pictures, you are obviously a skilled photographer although having a scenery like that to work with makes it easier!

    That's an important point that you made about the light, as the quality of the light is just so different...

    Jerome Philippe, Founder of AfricaHunting.com
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    You are quite welcome, sir. More luck than skill, really. Another 'bracketing' issue also deals directly with light: if you're using a 35mm non-auto camera, try bracketing exposure times around the median estimate. You'll usually catch a nice pic between the three .

    One VITAL thing I neglected to mention - always have a camera! I was following my PH one day tracking a gemsbok when he stopped, put his hand down, and stared ahead. There was a MASSIVE black rhino at just over 100 meters completely oblivious to our presence. No camera, and one of the most unforgettable sights of my life will be forever held in my mind, and not on film...

    You're absolutely right about Namibia being a dream place to take photos. The light / shadows, vistas, differing textures, deep blue of the sky, people, plants, animals... they all make a stunning combination. The closest place I've been to that quality of light is northern New Mexico in the early fall.

    Attached is a picture of an old red hartebeest bull that was taken on a beautiful evening in some glowing light. His horn tips are very worn, but he was obviously an old fighter, and battled his quick death valiantly. If I can only be so lucky as to leave this world on such a magnificent day and with such majesty:
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    I just returned from a trip to India and learned a very hard lesson. Going anywhere take 2 cameras. I dropped mine & wiped out the display. That left the rest of the trip with only the cell phone camera.
    "There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor polite, nor popular -- but one must ask, Is it right?" Martin Luther King Jr.

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    All the advice given is gold. The pictures are the first thing your family and friends see when you return from a Safari, so they should be well done.

    I always have two still cameras, both digital, one that is waterproof, and shock proof, and very thin so it is always in my left shirt pocket. The other is a little Cannon 540 as a back up. I also always have a video camera at least in camp, or in the hunting vehicle.

    As to taking pictures of your downed trophies, they should first be cleaned, of all the blood you can get off them, and the tongue placed back in the mouth. The animal should be posed as he would naturally lay when at rest while alive, and undisturbed. You know you have done it right when people at home see your pictures and ask "WAS HE STILL ALIVE?"

    Gentlemen, it is a long time before your trophies arrive at customs, and even longer before the taxidermy is completed so you can see them in your home. The pictures are a big help to the taxidermist as well. If he is given a good set of pictures of your trophies he will be able to do a better job on them as to the dying color, and coloring of the horns to match the color they were in life. I had a taxidermist once mount a wart hog for me, and he left the hide the color it was when it came out of the tanning solution, almost pink! When I declared my displeasure, he said, "Well they sent me some gray paint with the form, but I didn't use it, because I thought that color was just mud on them in the wild!" My response was, it makes no difference why the color is there it is always there on a warthog, they are GRAY.

    The animal should be turned so the light is right, and the background is good, and as someone already said all obstacles between the camera, and the trophy should be removed. A single shaft of thin grass between the camera and the trophy will look like a baseball bat in the picture, and if the camera is set on auto focus, it will focus on the nearest thing to the camera. People in the pictures should either remove hats or tip them back slightly, and use the flash to kill shadows, even in bright sun.
    DUGABOY1 www.doublerifleshooterssociety.com
    "If I die today I have had a life well spent, for I have been to see the elephant, and smelled the smoke of Africa" qt by Damon(mac) McCartney

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    Use a flash. But if you do get several sets of glass eyes from your taxidermist and push the right sized ones in. No green eyes when using the flash.

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    1/2 slam . . . that's a great trick that works really well. I've been carrying a couple of sets of glass eyes in different sizes around in my hunting daypack for several years now. No more 'reflector eyes'.
    There is only one degree of dead . . . there are many degrees of wounded

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    Instead of carrying glass eyes in different shapes out in the bush use Photoshop "The reflector eye" takes 3 second to fix.
    Most small and big things can be changed in ex Photoshop.
    If you have a camera that takes RAW photos use it.



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    I find a flash makes photos in Africa look very artificial as the light colour is all wrong, so use the natural light. I carry a compact tripod and use the timer so that you can slow the shutter down and get the light in without getting blurry.
    We carry a compact digital camera, but leave my big DSLR in the truck. A compact just cannot give you the same quality image through that tiny lens, but if you've walked a few km's going back for a big camera is not likely to be an option.
    I take a lot of photos up close, so much so that every PH I have hunted with has commented. Close ups op the hoof, folds in the skin, eyes, nose and ears, tail, and any striking marks. The erect mane of a zebra with a clear blue sky behind is beautiful!
    If you can convince one of the trackers to use your camera (which can be a lot of fun), get them to take lots of photos while you are taking it all in, back-slapping, hugging, etc. These photos are interesting to non-hunters as some people don't appreciate those posed shots. You don't always have to smile. And looking at the animal is often far more interesting then staring down the lens.
    Finally, for your own sake, get some photos of the animal as it fell, preparation of the area and the trophy, the happy faces of your PH and the rest of your team. These candid shots will capture the moment as you experienced it, and while they may not all be suitable for print or sharing with non-hunters, I find that these are the shots that allow me to relive these amazing experiences every day. If you have a partner than can operate the camera so that you can place yourself amongst the action, all the better.

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    Nicovl0604 is offline AH Senior Member
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    Default How to take really worthy trophy photos

    How to take really worthy trophy photos (Hero shots)

    Most people are really impressed when they see a great photo of an animal you shot. The photo can make the animal look really good or really bad. It's well worth a little extra effort to take the time to set up a shot to make it really worthy of a place in your home rather than under the visor of your truck. For many of us that can't afford taxidermy, this is a very cheap way to preserve the memory ot your hunt.Here's a few tips to take a quality photo.

    1. Clean up the animal
    A shot of animal with blood all over its face or a bloody tongue hanging out is disrespectful to the animal and will put off many folks that you share it with. Also showing huge Rat Holes with guts hanging out of them may seem cool if you're 15 and want to start a broadhead love/hate thread, but would you frame a picture of guts and hang it in your house? Take the time to clean up your animal. I always have some paper towels, water etc. handy for the shot.

    2. Pick a location for the shot
    Animals don't always die in a picturesque spot. Move the animal to a nice looking setting with something interesting in it (Rocks, cool trees, old tractor, broke down old fence etc.) to make the shot more interesting and capture the outdoor setting where you hunted. Interesting backgrounds make interesting photos. Don't make the background the star of the shot but have it featured in the shot. (For example- hanging a big Gobbler from an old fence post and kneeling down next to it etc.) Use your imagination.

    3. Pose the animal
    Set the animal up like you would with people in a portrait. Prop your buck up on its belly with feet supporting it and stretch his neck out so you can turn it, facing the head different ways for different angled shots.

    4. Compose the shot
    Composition is probably the most important thing that you have to LEARN to take good pictures. After you choose a good location, clean the animal up, stretch the animal out and pose it, and sit the hunter behind it, you have to frame the shot correctly.

    Shoot at the hunter and animal from their level or below them. Get down on the ground or even lay down in front of them. If you can pick a spot where you can put some SKY behind the horns to really showcase them. Antlers with tree branches and weeds behind them get lost in the shot. Have the hunter sit on the ground behind the animal leaning on it or holding up the head from behind, but not sitting directly behind the horns. Sit off to the side of the antlers so you can see them separately.

    Have the sun light the shot for you. Face the hunter into the sun in the daylight and tip your hat back if the sun shadows your face so you can identify the hunter rather than seeing a black shadow for a face. Use your flash if you have to to light the hunters face, even in the daytime. One cool effect is for a low light shot (Sunrise or sunset) shoot the sun in the background so you see the colored sky and use your flash to light the hunter and animal.

    FILL THE FRAME! when you take the shot. Shoot the hunter and animal right up to the edges of the frame. If you stand 50 feet away to take a shot and feel like the cool old Oak tree way over there should be in the picture too, move the deer over to the tree and sit in front of it but fill the entire shot with the interesting subject matter at hand. Lots of people see a picture and say that would be a killer shot "if you cropped all of this junk out of it" Crop the shot in your view finder before you push the button.

    Don't sit ten feet away from your trophy to make it look BIGGER! Be proud of what you shot and get in the picture with it, Besides, people will call BS when it looks like your buck has a 50" spread and you look like a GI Joe sitting next to it. You will probably have to show them the antlers at some point anyway and they are invariably disappointed when they see the real thing after seeing your photo VOO DOO.

    5. Take LOTS of shots!
    Especially with digital photography, it doesn't cost more to shoot too many pictures anymore. Keep shooting, shoot from several different angles. even different backgrounds. Shoot the animal by itself. Shoot it with the hunter behind it, holding it up, standing in the background, shaking hands with your buddy, with your kids being happy with you etc. etc. Just get lots of shots.

    It pays to have too many rather than not enough. You can always cull through them and get rid of most of them when you're done ( I bet you won't) and the odds that you'll get that perfect shot that is an absolute home run are better if you have a pile of them to sort through.


    Good Luck!

    And last but not least: Smile... (i know, i tend to forget this....)

    copied this from AT, but I found it worth being shared.




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    Thanks for sharing these trophy photo tips with us. If anyone else has some other great tips to add, don't hesitate to post them!

    Jerome Philippe, Founder of AfricaHunting.com
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    Nice post - photos are priceless! With today's digital capability I like to take several photos and then view them on your camera to see what you need to change in the pose, lighting, etc. Just keep snapping from all different angles . . .

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    Thanks for sharing the brilliant hunt tips Nico.

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