It was my first buck ever harvested…my first bow kill ever…and still one of the biggest bucks I’ve ever taken…and I DESPISE the pictures we took. As I sit here and type this regret rushes back through me that I have zero photos worthy of that memory captured, and this isn't something you get second chances to do over.
It is said a picture is worth a thousand words and can tap a thousand emotions; let’s ensure that all those words and emotions are good ones. No matter what the age of the hunter or size of the deer if you are taking the time to take harvest photos, do yourself a favor and take the time to go about them right!
Here are some tips that I put into three categories: must do, should do and consider to do.
MUST DO THINGS
1. WEAPON SAFETY
Primarily we are talking firearm safety, however remember with the popularity of crossbows and even airguns this is a must across ALL weapon types. Never allow the muzzle or front of the weapon be pointed in an unsafe direction; loaded or unloaded remember the first rule is to always treat a weapon as if it is loaded. Far too many pictures hit the social media streams every year with guns pointed at the hunter or directly at the camera man. Keep that thing pointed in a safe direction!
2. PREPARE THE DEER ASAP
Anyone that has hunted long enough knows rigamortis sets in fairly quick, and can be the killer of a solid picture. It takes serious effort to fight the stiff legged or neck look, so if at all able start propping the deer into a desirable position. Never hang the deer over night for next day photos…chances of you getting those legs to bend again is very slim.
*Prepping Tip…don’t be afraid to use straps or ropes to pull legs in to simulate a bedded down position over night. The image above-left is the author's 2016 harvest photo taken the day after and straps were used over night to ensure better photos in the morning.
3. GET THE DEER CLEAN
Blood is your enemy to a great picture. Paper towels, wet/field wipes and water are your best friends when it comes to cleaning your deer up. That animal gave its life, it is no sign of weakness to hold the respect we all should to make it presentable.
*Tongue tip…the tongue should in NO WAY be visible. Tuck it or cut it off if it won’t stay in the mouth.
4. YOU CAN ALWAYS DELETE
Phones and cameras these days have massive amounts of storage space, USE IT! I have been known to take over 100 photos and only end up keeping a half dozen or so, that delete button is incredibly easy to utilize. Image right: Sean Riley with his step-son Rowan are all smiles after Rowan's harvest.
SHOULD DO THINGS
If possible take photos when ample light is present, morning and evening light typically offer the most desirable lighting for memorable photos. However, IF nighttime photos must happen be sure to do all you can to flood the deer and hunter with ample light.
*Night Tip…if able have the sky as the background, even at night this will cause the subject to pop more in the picture.
2. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION…
Not every spot you harvest a deer will be the most photogenic. Always take onsite photos if able, but try to choose a location that has a great horizon or colors for a great photographic moment. One of my personal favorites is a spot in my parent’s yard which comes with a barbed wire fence, a pasture with a skyline in the distance behind an old barn. Food plots, clover fields or even hillsides with landscape sweeping through the background can make for some awesome photos.
3. POSITIONING AND ANGLES MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Remembering this especially for bucks is important. Every single rack is different and certain angles help illustrate unique traits of the antlers present in the photos. Mix it up and take multiple types and direction.
*Angle tip…GET LOW! A lot of the photos we all love to see are from a low angle…be willing to lay down to capture that awesome photo. Below pictured is Don Higgins from Real World with his amazing buck "Trump"...photo illustrates many of the parts discussed from the angle, the staging and the background!
4. FRAMING AND FOCUS
It should go without saying but you would be surprised how many pictures we all see every year with part of the rack or top of the hunters head cut from the picture. Zoom in sure, but don’t get carried away with that aspect of the camera…sometimes having more nature in the scene makes it all the better. While discussing aspects of the camera be sure to take note on the focusing ability of the device using. Whether a professional DSLR or a smart phone focusing abilities are present in both types of devices, know yours and utilize it to ensure the hunters face is in focus.
*Focus tip…if able play with the focus and the effect it can have on a photo.
CONSIDER DOING THINGS
1. SHOW THE EMOTIONS
Often times some big bad macho men don’t like smiling, however big deer typically have the ability to change this. Showing and capturing all the emotions will often times make for better photos so don’t be afraid to have them smile, grin and even be serious.
2. SHARE THE MOMENT WITH OTHERS
Don’t forget to bring in the landowner, the mentor or the parent that helped make the harvest possible or special! We all truly have no idea the impact to a moment others can have and capturing the moment with them is a memory we will be happy we never forget!
3. AFTER THE SHOT EDITING
There are a countless number of apps for your phone or software for your computer that can make all the difference for some post-photo editing. Don’t be afraid to even seek out folks you may know that are experienced in the photography industry.
4. HIRE A PROFESSIONAL
Now I wouldn’t do this for every single deer you take, however I know full well if I ever drop a true giant the first call I’ll be making after my father and wife will be a professional photographer…their price may seem excessive, but folks they’re truly to cameras what Jerry Miculek is to pistols.
*Professional tip…get someone experienced with outdoor photographer minimum, hunting experience of course preferred as well.
Now these are no doubt some other things to keep in mind when snapping photos, but if you consider these few I guarantee you your pictures will instantly be better for it. Many of us invest numerous amounts of sweat, money and time towards our harvests, trust me, you can manage a few more minutes and thoughts to capturing the moment forever in a picture. Not only will it capture the memory, it will show respect to this incredible creature we are pursuing!