Trophy Pics Aren’t Rocket Science:  7 Tips How to Take Photos of Your Harvest Like a Pro

By Bertram Quadt.

I regularly post images of my hunting exploits and trophies on Facebook and Instagram, and I do it quite deliberately. It’s a controversial topic: some say that we shouldn’t go into hiding as hunters, while others believe that pictures of dead animals do more harm than good to the hunting community. So far, even non-hunters find my photos acceptable rather than annoying. At least they haven’t triggered any shitstorm yet. It’s probably about the way I take my pics. Here is how you can make your trophy photos better:

  1. Take Your Time

Like every hunter, the first thing that comes to my mind once I’ve shot an animal is to have it field-dressed and get it in the cooler as quickly and as cleanly as possible. After all, hunting is about premium meat. But even with the ritual minute of silence we usually take in Europe to honour fallen prey, a good trophy photo will require at most five minutes of your time:

  • 2 minutes to think about how you want the picture to look – background, foreground, lighting angle, and from what perspective you take the image.
  • 1 ½ minutes to give the animal the correct posture and arrange other picture elements.
  • 1 ½ minutes to take four or five good snapshots from different distances and angles. 
What should be in the picture, and where?
  1. Think Ahead

Before taking the picture, think about what message it should convey to the viewer. Do you want to capture the whole special moment? Do you want to focus on the unique beauty of your trophy? Or highlight the specific landscape where you harvested the animal? Where will the sun be, and how do the shadows fall – including your own! Are bushes, grass, etc., obstructing the view you should clear first? How will you take the image – standing, bent, kneeling? How big should the animal be in relation to the background? What else, except the trophy, should the picture show? How will you position your weapon? (Hint: Never place the gun on the animal; the buck may have a good rack, but its body is not a gun rack!) Is there any blood or dirt that should be removed or hidden? All this needs to be taken care of before you take the pictures. Finally, try not to overload the photo – if you try to pack in the particular moment AND the special trophy AND the remarkable landscape, your attempt will go wrong more likely than not. 

A roe deer with accent on the landscape
Should the focus be on the landscape…
A roe deer with the focus on the trophy
… or on the trophy?
  1. Develop your signature style. 

There are thousands of trophy pics, many of which are refreshingly good. But they often follow the same stereotypes. I’ve tried to develop my signature style. First, I myself rarely feature in the pictures. I don’t like it. It feels too much like “man triumphs over slain beast” – but that’s my opinion. My hat and weapon represent me in the image; sometimes also my backpack (when I carry one) or my stalking stick (which I always carry). If there’s a backpack in the picture, it means I harvested the animal from a high seat, tree stand, or blind. The stalking stick suggests that I took it on a stalk. The dog always looks good in the photo. 

Exceptions prove the rules. 

With a dog
With the dog,
A roe deer trophy without the dog
without the dog,
A roe deer trophy with Alpine huts and mountains
nothing but the trophy. Image (c) L. Colloredo
  1. Don’t be afraid to edit! 

Some say, “I don’t edit my photos. I want them to be natural!” First of all, a photo isn’t just an exposure; it’s what I see: mood, lighting, and weather must convey that moment as I saw it. It’s not the camera that makes the photo. It’s me. Same as in cooking: it’s me who prepares the meal, it’s not my stove. Besides, even in the days of analogue photography, exposures were edited and retouched, sometimes rather heavily so. Some of the most famous images in the history of photography were edited. Below you can see two examples, showing the original with instructions to the photo laboratory and the final version. Both are famous “iconic shots”. However, editing comes second. Taking care of the carcass, gutting it, and getting it into the cooler must always come first. Only if you are absolutely sure that editing won’t take longer than a minute or two can you do it on the spot – weather permitting. There are numerous good software for image editing. I prefer an app called Snapseed.

Photographer: Dennis Stock. Photo Source: James Clarke

  1. The Mobile Phone Camera is Enough; The Mobile Camera App Isn’t 

I take almost all of my trophy photos with the iPhone. However, I don’t usually use the default camera software installed on the phone. I prefer aftermarket ones. They give me more easier-handled control over vital parameters such as lighting, contrast, etc. Ideally, they have an HDR (high dynamic range capture) function, which combines a series of images with different exposure into one, enabling me to focus on the object I want the viewer’s eye drawn to. These tweaks give more colour depth, better contrast, and ultimately more “oomph”, ideally resulting in what’s colloquially termed an “HSH” (holy-shit-shot). The app I most frequently use is ProCamera by Cocologics. 


One shot, three moods.

  1. Pay Respect! 

This is perhaps the most vital point. You can never edit a sloppy exposure into a good photo. Similarly, you will never get a clean, good-looking trophy picture from a dirty, disgusting and disrespectful situation. An animal swimming in its blood, thrown carelessly on pure soil or over a pile of corn, is nothing more than a corpse, so much dead meat. That’s not what I want my viewers to see. I want to show what this moment means to me, why this animal, whose life I have taken, is essential and of value, and why I respect and honour it. In this respect, the trophy photo is akin to the ritual of the “last bite”, that ancient custom of my native Germany to put a twig into the deceased animal’s mouth as a gesture of honour and gratefulness. No one needs to adhere to this, but every hunter should pay respect to the animal whose life he’s taken. 

A Winter Night
A boar
A Boar
  1. Practice Makes Perfect. 

Nobody is born with a camera in their hands; that would be a bit too much for the mother. Study the basics of photography and learn to operate your camera and the image processing software. Most important: keep your eyes open. There are very many excellent photographers among hunters on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media. Admire their work and learn from them – this is what I do!

Bertram Quadt is a German hunter, photographer and shooting journalist/writer. Born into a family with literally centuries of hunting tradition, he is a keen stalker for roe deer, red deer, chamois and wild boar. He has hunted all over Europe and spent some time going after African game as well. The wildlife of North America is yet unknown to him, but ranks highly on his bucket list.

Get more photographs and stories (in German) by Bertram Quandt from his website.

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