4 Tips for Mastering your Deer Photos | Advice from a Photographer and Hunter

Most hunters will agree that taking photos of a successful harvest is part of the full experience in the field. It is our way of remembering and memorializing the hunt. With that being said, I believe that it is crucial to photograph your deer in way that presents the situation with respect. So, I am sharing my knowledge as both a wedding photographer and a deer hunter, so that you can master your deer photos!

Background

The first step is choosing the appropriate setting to photograph in. Avoid photographing on any vehicle used to transport the deer, or with any building used to hang or process the deer. Instead, try shooting in the natural environment where the deer came from. An open field or simple wood-line will provide a much more attractive setting, won’t distract from you and the deer, and simply creates a beautiful backdrop for your proud moment. I promise this simple change is worth the extra dragging!

We had to drag Zach’s buck into the food plot to get the picture shown below. Between the setting, the people and the deer…one of my favorite photos ever!

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Lighting

Just like with my weddings and sessions, lighting is everything. Photographing near sunrise or sunset will give you amazing results. If you are taking photos in the middle of the day, I recommend staying in the open on an overcast day and sticking to solid shade if it’s sunny. A good nighttime deer photo is tough without adequate flash (Below is a photo of Ryan taken with the same setup I use for wedding receptions). In a pinch, I have made it work near a yard light with my iPhone flash, but I usually wait until the next morning for photos if the deer is recovered after dark.

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Hunter, Deer, and Camera Positioning

The position of you and your deer can also make all the difference. The first thing we do is roll the deer upright, with the legs folded under so it appears to be bedded. This position shows the actual size of the deer because you can see more of the body rather than just the belly of a flat laying deer. This position is especially important if the deer has been field dressed, as it will hide that unpopular gore (if possible, I photograph BEFORE field dressing).

After the deer is upright, the hunter can then sit or kneel behind the deer. It usually works best to let the deer rest on the hunter’s lap so that it remains upright. When holding the deer’s head up, be sure to try a number of different angles to see which looks best. For example, you may want to turn a buck a specific way to show off a unique characteristic or point a doe outward to show a long mature nose (scroll down a bit to see what I mean on posing a doe).

Another difference maker is the level of the camera. We photograph our deer at eye level with the hunter and the deer. If the photographer is standing, the deer will appear smaller. And, yes laying on the ground and shooting up will make your deer appear larger, but we are shooting for accuracy rather than drama. ;)

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Distracting Details

Even if you find a great backdrop with the perfect positioning, the tiniest detail can distract from an otherwise amazing picture. So, if there are leaves or debris stuck to the deer, brush them off. If there is blood everywhere, hose the hide down. And, please, PLEASE tuck the tongue back in. I completely understand that blood and gore comes along with the hunt, and I too can be found elbow deep in the chest cavity. But, the deer doesn’t need to be presented in that light for THE photo.

I love this next photo of Ryan for all of those reasons. The body, the hide, the antlers (and the husband) all perfect.

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I believe that as hunters, it is our responsibility to showcase the beauty, pride and respect within our hunts. If you agree, share this post with other hunters!

And, for more insight like this, follow Shot by Chelsea on Instagram for field to table recipes, a closer look at my time spent hunting, and more!