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Staff Article

Jeff Warren

Taking Good Harvest Photos

By Jeff Warren

July 2015


The wait for pursuing big game is almost over. Bears and turkeys have been fun, but they will never grow headgear, and it is those horns and antlers that make us do crazy things. If and when a guy finally takes that incredible animal that he has always dreamed of, photos should be the very next thing he concentrates on. There will only be one opportunity to get quality photos of your freshly-taken trophy that you worked so hard for.

I started paying attention to taking quality photos way back in 1985. It was very important that we had good kill photos of our clients because we were brand new in the outfitting business at the time and good harvest photos sold hunts. Selling hunts meant making some money, and making some money meant feeding my family.

Jeff with client's mule deer

I wrote an article in the June 2014 issue of the Huntin’ Fool magazine that detailed how I like to set up an animal for kill photos. You might want to look at that article as it has tips and how-to photos that I feel may help you out when getting your trophy ready for its photo session. You can easily do this when you log on to your online portfolio and view the eMagazines. All previous years’ magazines from 2011 are on there.

I have done some crazy things all in the name of getting great photos instead of just alright photos. Some things have worked and other things have not. I tried the glass eyeballs with little success, but some guys swear by it. For elk, or any antlered game for that matter, I would pack a small spray bottle of 409 cleaner for cleaning up a rack. Gently wipe down the antlers, paying particular attention to ivory tips as it makes them really stand out, especially with a fairly dark background. While looking back through 30 years’ worth of kill photos for this article, it was amazing to see how many bad photos and how few good photos were in my rather large collection, and I worked hard at taking those photos!

elk and turkey

The thing that really took me by surprise was how many photos were taken of each animal. Keep in mind that it wasn’t until days after the photos were taken that we got to see how they turned out as there were no digital cameras back then. We had to go to the photo store and get our rolls of film developed. Getting our packages of developed photos each week between hunts was like opening Christmas presents as all involved were excited to see the results. We even had kill photo contests among the guides to get the entire staff conscious of getting good snapshots. Nowadays with digital cameras providing instant results, bad photos should not be as much of an issue.

I chose to include a few of my photos with this article that I feel are good quality harvests photos of five different species. Good quality to me is an animal that is cleaned up with no blood, dirt, sticks, tongues hanging out, bulging eyeballs, etc. Also, you have to determine what the critter’s best qualities are and attempt to show those qualities in the finished photos. Even when you think you have the animal set up correctly, you may have photos that just don’t look right. Be patient and work at it; it will be worth it in the long run.

Different people like different poses when photographing a dead animal. I like what I like, but you might like something different. I am simply talking about what I like in this article. You will have to decide what pleases your eye. I don’t usually like weapons in photos and, in my opinion, you should never straddle the carcass. Also, trying to make the animal look bigger than it actually is isn’t desirable in my book. The photos of different animals that I have included with this article are examples of what I like to see in kill photos.

Keep in mind that if you want your story to appear in the magazine, good kill photos are a must. Use good quality cameras and take the time required to do your trophy justice. Good luck this fall, and have fun!

bear and antelope