"What do you think of this buck?" my buddy said as he showed me a smartphone pic. "The rack grosses more than 160 points and has nearly 6-inch bases! A local boy shot it just north of here."
I didn't question the immense dimensions of the buck's antlers, but I instantly had to question the talent of the photographer and lack of respect for such a fine animal. Instead of posing proudly with the buck displayed against a background depicting the region where the buck reigned, the hunter didn't even take the time to remove the animal from the bloodstained back of the pickup. To make matters worse, blood dripped from the sagging tongue extending from the deer's mouth, and one eye was squinted from being laid against a spare tire. Not good.
Tips For Taking Great Photos
Before you field dress an animal, decide if the spot where it dropped is suitable for good photos. If you're hunting in an area that requires packing an animal out in pieces, you'll be stuck with the background at hand. Fortunately, most hunting locations are accessible by ATV or 4x4 truck, and you might want to move the animal to a high hill to add a sweeping panoramic to the photo. If you want to accentuate a buck or bull's antlers, get low—lay down if you have to—and silhouette the rack against a bluebird sky.
Hunting is killing, and killing involves blood, but try to keep the presence of blood to a minimum in your photographs. For that reason it's best to take photos before you field dress an animal. Your non-hunting friends at the office or visiting relatives might like to see your trophy, so keep an eye out for excessive blood in your photos.
Before you leave on a hunt, make sure to have a roll of paper towels and water for cleaning chores if you must field dress an animal before the photo session. If you don't have water on-hand, soft drinks will work, too. After a deer dies, the tongue naturally flops out of the side of the mouth, so push it back into the deer's mouth before taking photos.
Now that an animal looks presentable, it's time to take a look at the successful hunter. Did he or she get blood on their clothes? Take a moment and prep a hunter by having them put on a clean jacket and an appropriate hunting hat before getting behind the animal. This is also the time to grab a hunter's gun or bow if you'd like that in the photos as well.
Under a high sun, tip the bill of a hunter's cap back to avoid dark shadows under the hat. It's also an excellent idea to use a Flexfill to bounce light back into the hunter's face to eliminate shadows. Simply pack it with all of your other spare hunting gear and then grab it when you need it.
Help the hunter position a deer or similar size animal so it's propped up on its folded front legs, resting squarely on its belly. This will emphasize the deer's body size. If the deer is a buck, turn the head so as to best show off the antlers. Finally, have the hunter smile—it makes no sense to take photos of someone with a blank stare, so do your best to encourage them to smile.
Taking great smartphone pics isn't difficult. Pay close attention to the background, blood, animal body position and hunter appearance before beginning to snap photos. Take dozens of pictures from various angles. That way, you'll be sure to have at least one great shot.