Game trophy photographs
During the past several months we have had numerous chances to
look at photographs of game taken by hunters during the gun and
archery deer seasons.
While I won’t say all, but some are not particularly pleasing to
look at. Some are demeaning to the animal.
What’s wrong with them? How could we make them, and us, look
First, it is the animal that is the purpose of the photograph and
we should stage that animal in the best possible way. It’s sort of
like combing our own hair, making sure our shirt or jacket is
For animals, this usually means putting the tongue back inside the
animal’s mouth, cleaning the blood from areas that will show, and
positioning the legs and other appendages in as normal a position
Just as we were told when we photograph people, we don’t want tree
branches coming out of their a deer’s head. Deer antlers show up
best if they are sky lined, that is with nothing but sky behind
them. If possible, blue sky.
A firearm (not weapon) or bow was used to shoot the deer. Include
it in the photograph? One might ask why, but if the answer is yes,
don’t make it the center of attraction. These photographs are
usually not advertisements for gear. In many cases it isn’t
necessary to include the gun or bow.
If a gun is included, don’t force us to look down the muzzle or
have us see a finger inside the trigger guard. Or see the muzzle
embedded in the hunter’s arm pit.
The person should be off to the side, certainly not sitting on the
I know many want to push the antlers closer to the camera. Why? To
make them look larger than life. Anglers do it, too, with fish. But
everyone is onto this trick, so be original and do something else.
There are ways other than with a photograph, to tell a viewer the
antler spread was 20.5 inches.
It’s more likely that hunters, and non-hunters, will spend more
time viewing us with a trophy if the photograph is pleasing to
observe. And viewers will remember it, too.
Give the animal the respect it deserves.
One of the most pleasing and telling deer photographs I remember
was of a woman who killed an antlerless animal. The deer was
hanging by its neck or head, but those parts were not in the
picture. The hunter was standing close to the hanging animal, but
only a major portion of the body, not the head, neck and legs, were
in view. There was no need to show anything more. We got the
picture. I remembered it.
I spent more time looking at that photograph two decades ago than I
have spent looking at any other dead deer shot. Why, because it
told me everything I needed to know and didn’t force me to look at
things I didn’t need to know and didn’t care to know.
Editors, as well as photographers and hunters, should think before
they push the shutters on their cameras or before they include
images in publications that degrade someone’s trophy as well as the