1. Ready for the close-up: When taking trophy photos, depict the animal in the best condition possible. Carry paper towels to wipe up any blood. Smooth down fur that’s been roughed up, and tuck in its tongue. Take your pictures before you field-dress. The closer the game looks to being alive, and the less visible the blood, the nicer the photograph.
2. Watch your angles: Take pictures from a variety of angles—you’ll find certain ones show antler mass and tines far better than others. Position yourself (or your buddy) about level with the animal’s shoulders, and don’t straddle the animal. Also be mindful of where your gun is pointing in the photo, so NRA editors can publish it in good conscience.
3. For the birds: For waterfowl and upland birds, smooth down feathers and place them on dry ground, or carefully in your vest, as you would if you were planning to mount them. When it’s time for pictures, grab a leg and shake the bird to fluff up its feathers. When you can, try holding the birds up where they can seen, so they’re not just lumps on the ground.
4. Tell the story: You probably weren’t hunting in your driveway or garage, so don’t wait until you get home to take pics. Show where the hunt took place—where that buck or bull dropped, the mountains in the background, the decoy spread you used to lure in those geese. The more detailed the picture, the more eye-catching it will be.
5. Find the light: Think about where the sun is before you compose your scene. On cloudy days, you can pretty much shoot in any direction, but on bright days your subject should be facing the sun. Fill flash will light up faces darkened by ball caps.
6. Your gear: You don’t need a super-expensive camera to get quality pictures. The newer point-and-shoot cameras have mega-pixel ratings equal to professional cameras. If you can find one that is water resistant, so much the better; if not, keep your camera in a gallon-size freezer bag when it’s in your pack. Carry spare batteries, as well. If you’re hoping to get published, know this: Print magazines need pictures that are 300 dpi or better, or the photo quality will be poor.
7. Composed: Placing the subject dead center produces boring pictures in which the hunter’s legs are often cut off and nothing but empty sky fills the top half of the frame. Try placing your subject a third of the way into the frame. Survey the edges of the frame to ensure you’re not cropping out something important. Also, beware of distracting elements like trees in the background that appear to stick out from people’s heads.
8. On the Level: Position your camera at the same level as your subject or lower. For example, when photographing your buddy with his deer, take the picture from a kneeling position instead of standing up and pointing the camera down. If your subject is standing, try a few shots from a lower angle.
9. The Extra Mile: Go beyond trophy shots by keeping your camera handy to record candid moments of your buddies shooting, laughing or setting out the decoys; your dog retrieving; a doe walking under your stand…anything that makes hunting special to you. Take a few minutes during that pretty low light to hunt with your camera instead of your gun.
10. Say Cheese: It may sound clichéd, but seeing happy faces will make you smile every time you look at the picture. So dig deep and say “cheese”!