Home > African Trophy Photography
African trophy photography tips are from Wikus Groenewald who is a Professional Hunter and Photographer.
"I rather distrust the camera as a true interpreter of nature" F.C.Selous
For good African trophy photography, you need the right equipment. The wider (35mm) the angle of the lens, the better the trophy photograph. The wide angle facility will allow you to get really close to your trophy and still get the whole trophy with the hunter inside the frame. A wide angle lens also captures a lot of additional detail that telephoto lenses will not do. This is because a wide angle lens allows a lot more additional light through. This also makes it ideal for taking photos under poor light conditions.
In the digital world of today and with the wonders of Photoshop, you can almost work magic on your images. A digital SLR camera will be ideal for taking good trophy photos with its interchangeable lenses. A normal digital camera with a fixed lens will also do the job but there will be a clear visible difference when you take a photo with a digital SLR. Cameras gets cheaper by the day so try to stick to good brand names like Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax etc.
After your trophy animal is down, you will need to try to take the pictures as quickly as possible, so get the animal into the preferred position for your picture as soon as you can. By doing this the animal will still be in its natural form - it does not look so nice in pictures if your trophy animal is already stiff and bloated. The position you set your trophy in depends on personal preference. Sometimes the area and position the animal has gone down in can make the setup for your pictures very difficult. If it is a small animal you can move it to a better spot, but when it comes to buffalo, elephant or something that weighty, you are pretty much stuck and just have to do the best with what you have.
Position your trophy so that the sun is shining on it. In other words, the sun will be at the photographers back when taking the pictures. After that, clear the area around your trophy animal carefully and make sure that there is no grass in front of your animal or in front of your camera lens. Back in the old days of film cameras, that would be a very expensive mistake. With modern digital cameras and the aid of Photoshop you can eliminate this mistake easily, but you will be surprised to see how many trophy hunters still make this error.
After finally positioning the animal, wipe away any traces of blood and make sure the tongue remains in the mouth, rather than leave it hanging out.
If possible try to get the horns of your trophy animal in blue or clear sky. That will bring out the size and shape of your trophy. Never put the hunter behind the horns of the trophy animal unless it makes a really nice picture and it does not create an messy background with the horns.
Get as low as possible when taking a trophy photograph even if you have to lie on your stomach. You won't regret it. By doing this it will put your whole picture into perspective. A lot of Professional Hunters or trophy hunters when taking a picture, put the hunter far behind the animal to make it look bigger. Personally, I dont like doing this as it feels like cheating to me.
Encourage the hunter to touch or put his hand on the trophy animal so that you can see it on the photo. This will give the scale of the picture as well as being a nice personal touch.
By using the above mentioned tips your photograph will look great and as Jack O'Connor said "the big ones look big" even if it is in a picture.
The time of day will determine the quality of your African trophy photographs. This is where a flash comes in handy. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times for taking photographs as the light is softer then.
In the harsh sunlight of midday, flash would not normally be necessary. When taking trophy photos at this time, there are a few things you can do to take a great picture. Use the flash to get rid of dark areas and shadows like under a hat. Dont go too close to the trophy because the power of the flash will cause the picture to appear white or greyish. Test the distance you need to be from the animal by taking a couple of pictures at different distances with the flash on. This will only take a minute to do and will be well worth spending the time on. When you are happy with you distance and flash quality you can use a zoom lens to bring the picture closer so that it fills the frame. By doing this you will get brilliant pictures even in midday conditions.
When taking the picture make sure that everything fits in the frame. Make sure you don't cut off horns or heads, tails or feet - or anything else.
Remember, once that animal gets skinned, it's over and you will not have the opportunity to take further field photographs.
Don't rush - take photos from lots of different angles. With a digital camera you can take a lot of pictures, so do it - you will not regret it.
The pictures from your safari and your trophies in the field will be all you have besides your memories, so take the best photographs you can.