By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
The memories we make in the field are treasures we carry in our minds for a lifetime, but when it’s time to tell the story to your friends, it’s time for the photos to come out. Make sure your photos are as good as the memories they represent.
Everyone who’s seen a copy of Outdoor Life, Field & Stream or any other professionally produced hunting magazine has seen hunter and deer photos, commonly called “hero shots,” done the right way.
Anyone who’s seen photos their friends took with their deer has probably seen it done the wrong way, too.
The fact is, it’s almost no more trouble to do it the first way than it is the second. Why are friend-deer photos so commonly bad, then? The reasons are as many and varied as the hunts themselves, but they all boil down to the fact that, in the excitement of the moment, preparation for the photo was an afterthought at best.
With just a little bit of thought and virtually no more effort, you can shoot photos with your deer or turkey or any other harvest at a quality that will help the memories, and the stories, last forever. Here’s how:
The game you’ve taken is a blessing and the photo should show respect for that fact. Before you take any photos, clean up any excess blood on the animal and smooth down any disturbed hair or feathers. Professional videographers carry a bottle of water and a rag or spare T-shirt for this purpose. If the deer’s tongue is hanging out, tuck it back in or remove it. Position your bow or your gun, with the action open and the muzzle pointed away from both you and the camera, across the deer’s body in such a way as to cover the impact or exit point.
When you’re posing with your harvest, kneel or sit down behind it and pull the antlers or turkey fan up into your lap. The closer you can get one to the other, the tighter the photo can be composed or cropped and the better it will be.
If you’re hunting with a buddy or if someone is coming to help you get the deer out of the woods or field, have them take the photos there. Photos taken where the hunt took place are the optimum choice. If it’s dark, a couple flashlights or the headlights of a vehicle can provide enough illumination, combined with the camera’s flash, to make excellent photos.
If you didn’t have your camera with you in the field, do your best to use some sort of natural setting once you get home.
If you’re taking your deer straight to the processor, there’s no natural setting there and you absolutely must shoot your photos in the back of a truck, make sure there are as few distractions as possible in the photo.
For those who want their photos to take the next step up, though, here’s one more professional secret that will make a quantum leap’s difference in your end result. As any photographer will tell you, the eyes of the subject in any photo convey most of the magic.
Why do the eyes on the deer in big magazines look so good? Because they came from a taxidermist, that’s why. The eyes in a mounted deer are not solid like golf balls. They’re basically oversized contact lenses. If you’re taking a photo of any deer that was shot more than a few minutes ago, the eyes won’t look natural.
A pair of taxidermist deer eyes, tucked into your pack and carried just for this occasion, can be placed and photo-graphed, then removed and reused over and over again. They’ll make your shots look as fresh as the memories you return to time and time again.