5 Ways to Ruin a Great Hunting Photo

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As the communications manager for QDMA, I get to look at and work with a lot of deer hunting photos. I consider it a perk of the job. A great hunting photo can bring you right into that moment with the hunter — you can see the excitement in their eyes, and that big smile speaks volumes. That photo will forever be a reminder of the day’s exciting events. Unfortunately, I also see my share of missed opportunities when it comes to capturing that special moment in a photo. Most of these camera faux pas are avoidable with a little planning and forethought. If you want to make sure you capture that special moment with a photo worthy of sharing not only with friends and family, but with the world across social media, avoid these five common mistakes this season.

You Didn’t Keep it Safe

When hunting, safety is always top priority even when it comes to getting a great photo. On more than one occasion I’ve been unable to use an otherwise great hunting photo because a firearm was pointed at someone in the photo. Regardless of whether the gun was loaded at the time, this violates one of the most important rules of gun safety — always keep the firearm’s muzzle pointed in a safe direction. The fact that it seems to happen most frequently when a child is involved is even more reason to make sure we use the photo setup as a teaching opportunity to always practice gun safety. So, when setting up a great hunting photo this season, keep the action of the firearm open and the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.

You Didn’t Keep it Tasteful

While I love to see all the hunting photos shared on social media this time of year, some of them make me cringe. While I fully understand what is involved in taking an animal’s life and the sight of blood certainly doesn’t bother me, not everyone who may see your photo is a hunter. And like it or not, the future of hunting depends on the support of non-hunters. No one is asking you to hide the fact you’re a hunter or not share your hunting photos. You should simply take a few moments before shooting pictures to wipe away any excess blood on the deer’s body and face and tuck its tongue back into its mouth. Also, save the “look what my broadhead did” photos for your hunting buddies and leave them off of social media.

You Didn’t Keep it Natural

Many of my early hunting photos were shot in truck beds or on garage floors where I was preparing to process the deer. I hate that I didn’t take the time while I was in the field to get some nice shots of me with my deer in a natural setting. Things can get hectic when a deer is down, especially if it’s already late in the evening when it happens. The priority becomes getting the deer out and getting home. But I can assure you, if you’ll take a few minutes before the hard work begins to clean the deer up and take a few really good photos, you’ll never regret that extra time spent in the field. If you can’t get good photos in the field, at least try to get some in your yard, with as natural a backdrop as possible.

You Didn’t Get the Lighting Right

Aside from getting everything ready for the photo, one of the most common ways to ruin a good photo is with poor lighting. That can be a night shot where the photographer was too far back for the flash to be effective, or it can even be a daytime photo where the sun shining into the camera lens causes creates a bright background with all the important parts of the picture being too dark.

Regardless of what time of day or night you are shooting a picture, it is always best to get as close to the subject as possible without using the camera’s zoom (unless you are purposely trying to get a shallow-depth-of-field effect). This is especially important at night, so the flash can effectively light up as much of the subject as possible. During daylight photos, pay particular attention to how the sun is affecting the photo and where the shadows are falling. If possible, use trees or other objects to block direct light from the sun. If not, position the hunter in a way that the sun is directed onto the subject and his/her deer. You can even use your flash to help eliminate some of the harsh shadows, especially those created by ball caps.

You Didn’t Take Enough Pictures

Thankfully, the days of taking a few pictures and then waiting for the film to be developed to see if you got one worthy of sharing are over. We can now snap a picture with our digital camera or even our phone and instantly see how it turned out. Yet many times we still end up with a photo we wished we’d spent more time on. The key to getting a great picture is often getting LOTS of pictures. Don’t just take one or two shots and hope they work. Take lots of shots from different angles and different camera orientation. When you check a photo, be sure to zoom in and make sure everything is in focus. Sometimes an image on a cell phone looks good, but when you view it on a desktop or laptop computer at full resolution, you see it wasn’t in focus. At that point, it’s usually too late to go back and get more.

We spend countless hours each season scouting, preparing and actually hunting. When the moment of truth finally arrives and you are able to reap the benefits of all that hard word, don’t skimp on the photos. Take some time to clean up the deer, position it in a nice, natural backdrop, put a big smile on your face and get lots of great pictures to share with all your friends. Years later, when you look back on those photos with fond memories, you’ll be glad you did.

  • Mitch

    Another way is to shoot a deer the size of a average size dog.


About Brian Grossman

Brian Grossman joined the QDMA staff in August, 2015 as its Communications Manager. Brian is responsible for amplifying QDMA’s educational message for hunters through social media, e-mail, the QDMA website, and Quality Whitetails magazine. He has been a freelance writer, photographer, videographer and web designer since 2003. A trained wildlife biologist, Brian founded the Poor Boys Outdoors and Working Class Hunter web shows and associated media during his free time while working full time as a wildlife manager. He came to QDMA from the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division, where he was a field operations supervisor, overseeing management of 15 Wildlife Management Areas. Brian currently lives in Thomaston, Georgia with his wife, Tina, and his two children, Dakota and Brooke.