Hunting – Basics of Photographing Your Trophy | Mia’s Motivations

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-8-35-26-amHunting season is in full swing for most and over for some. Now we are all sharing stories of our harvests. This includes pictures. Many on our mobile devices, social networks and, if we’re lucky, in magazines and other publications. As I look at some of the pictures, I am reminded to take note of how to get great photos of our harvests. It is important to show our respect for the magnificent animals as well as obtain beautiful memories of our time in the field to share with others. We need to make sure they are the best possible images. Here are just a few of the tips I have been given over the years, and I am happy to share them with you.



It is always best to photograph your trophy in the area where you find it. Make the photo look as natural as possible. It does not do the animal justice to take a photo of it in the back of your pick up, on your 4-wheeler or worse yet, hanging from your hoist. Photographs look much better if you have trees or shrubs in the background.

Prepare the animal so it looks as natural as possible. Be sure to clean the animal of any blood. Pet the animal’s fur in the proper direction. Put the tongue in its mouth and clear the lips and nostrils of any blood. Remember to check periodically and make sure no additional blood has appeared. Some photographers carry thin line to hold the mouth closed if necessary.

In order to have your animal look full bodied and healthy, push it forward on its body. Fold its legs under its chest. This will give the body a healthy appearance. Sit beside or behind the animal. Never sit on the animal. Depending on the size of your harvest, you may need to use your pack, large rocks or shooting sticks to brace its weight and prop it up. Hold on to the animal’s antlers only to obtain a natural head position. Do not use its antlers to rest your bow or gun. Bows and guns can be held in your free hand or laid at an angle across the animal’s body.

Take your photos up close with a flash to optimize light. This will eliminate some of the shadows caused by a hat on a bright sunny day. Pay attention to hats and sunglasses. Remove sunglasses and tilt ball caps up so your eyes can be seen in the photo.  If the animal has antlers, turn the animal’s head at an angle to see the depth and confirmation of the antlers. Pay attention to shadows caused by antlers that can appear across your face.  On another note, if you have sponsors, make sure their logo is still visible in the photograph.

Always take numerous pictures. The more photos you take at different angles, the better chance you have of getting one that doesn’t have a flaw such as a shadow across your chin or other accidental detractor. You will also need a separate photograph for each article you write. Cover your bases and take lots. Remember the basics and let us see those fantastic photographs.

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Mia Anstine is an outdoor writer, licensed outfitter, hunting guide, life coach, keynote speaker, and range safety officer, firearms instructor, and archery instructor. She is the founder of MAC Outdoors and Host of the MAC Outdoors Podcast. 

Mia Anstine strives to encourage others to get outside, hunt, fish, shoot, and survive life with others in a positive way.

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Ignacio, CO 81137-0031 

5 Replies to “Hunting – Basics of Photographing Your Trophy | Mia’s Motivations”

  1. I know I am guilty of a few of these on accident and on purpose. Only on purpose though cause I wanted to show and tell the entire story of filling the freezer from start to finished steaks and burger.

  2. With all due respect, I can’t entirely agree. These rules would rule out too many of my favourite images! If what is needed is a politically correct image, fit for commercial publication, then these guidelines may well be fine. But there are other occasions and usages when such sanitisation is neither required nor helpful. I see nothing wrong with images of animals on a 4-wheeler or hanging from a hoist, there is no need to be ashamed of sitting astride or showing a little blood – such pictures all have their place. It could even be argued that banishing such images, the way abbatoirs conduct their business behind closed doors, is misleading if not dishonest.

    Different images are appropriate for different purposes and, whilst I agree that they are not all interchangeable or suitable to show at a genteel tea-party, I could not accept such censorship at other times. There may be a desire to demonstrate a good heart/lung shot and that can be shown by a clear hole, and by oxygenated blood foaming from the mouth or nostrils. There may be a desire to demonstrate how to clean a carcass – and buck pole is a useful tool. After a long hard hunt I see no problem in expressing honestly the triumphant thrill that say’s “he’s down, he’s owned!” – and if that means sitting astride or with a foot on top – that’s great! It is perfectly possible to express this without turning the image into “hunting porn”.

    Of course one needs to be discreet in where and to whom such images are shown, and there is always the risk that images may be abused by antis – so that needs to be borne in mind. However, I have no doubt that the personal trophy galleries that have appeared on the internet over the last fifteen or so years, have done much to educate people, overcome ignorance, and show an out-of-touch public that hunting, killing, cleaning, skinning, preparing and cooking or mounting animals is a perfectly normal and acceptable way of life.

    That said, if what is required is a top-quality image for publication or a widely seen family album, Mia’s advice is excellent. She knows her stuff and her trophy compositions are top-notch.

  3. Hi Alwyn! Thanks so much for your support as well as for stopping by and sharing. I do have many pics of my hunt and the “story”. I don’t use those for the “trophy” pics. 😉

  4. I am not sure I would use the word “guilty”. There is indeed something to say about showing the entire story. We enjoy it all don’t we?! 😀

  5. Well, I mean back in the day when I say “guilty”. I do not have many pictures from when I first started hunting and the ones I do are of animals hoisted in the air, in the back of the truck, blood and/or gut piles in the background and to say the least, not in great taste and not something I want someone not in to hunting to see. But as I have grown older, I have started looking at what I do as a hunter way differently. Heck, like you said, take many photos from different angles! I had some great photos of my brothers buck just two weeks ago I had posed so there was little to no blood and good light, only to find the tongue hanging out of his mouth when I got home. I am working on a post right now about a day we used to “fill the freezer” with multiple deer tags bother OTC and permit, from start to finished. More along the lines of an informative post.

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