It’s probably no exaggeration to say all hunters who harvest an animal want to remember the experience—everything from the people and places they visited to the guns they used and even the goofy grins no one could wipe from their satisfied mugs. And one of the best ways to record the hunt is a quality photo.

Unfortunately, in the excitement that follows a successful hunt, we often don’t commit the time and patience needed to take truly great pictures. Want to take photos you’d be proud to show off? Follow these tips. Or, if you plan to be in the shot, pass them on to your camp photographer.

Set the scene
First, tidy up the area around the animal or move it to an area free of blood, debris and other distractions, such as fencelines, telephone poles and vehicles. For antlered game, select a location that lets you show off the trophy headgear against the skyline. Next, make sure both the hunter and the animal are presentable—nothing spoils hunting photos quite like excessive blood. A little water and baby wipes can go a long way.

Tuck in the animal’s tongue, or cut it off, to ensure it doesn’t become an unwanted focal point. And if the animal has blood dripping from its nose, stuff in a little tissue to halt the flow. For antlered animals, fold the legs under the body to bring focus to the antlers and to create a much cleaner image.

For fur-bearing animals, such as bears and big cats, comb out the fur with your hands. Similarly, with birds, a little preening quickly restores the beauty they had on the wing. If you plan to show a firearm in the photo, make sure it’s unloaded and pointed in a safe direction.

Strike a pose
For a classic and tasteful shot, position the animal so it’s broadside to the camera, and have the hunter sit or kneel behind the animal. If the hunter stands, the perspective is not as good and you can’t easily fill the frame. For large-bodied or wide-racked animals, you can also go with a head-on pose, where the hunter is positioned behind the animal’s tail. As for bears, cats and antlerless game, they look best when propped over alog, or with a mound of snow or soil under their chest. Otherwise, the animals tend to disappear into the background.

If the hunter is wearing bulky clothing, get him to shed a layer. Also keep colour in mind—a red or orange sweater, vest or hat can give the final image a little pizzazz. Billed caps should be removed or tipped back to avoid dark shadows on the face.

And since most hunts require a team effort, be sure to also take a few pictures including friends, guides, landowners and others who were part of the day.

Compose the shot
As a rule of thumb, the sun should be behind the photographer. Begin by taking photos that completely fill the frame—too much of the world and not enough of the hunter and his trophy is a common mistake. And just when you think you’re close enough, take another step closer before you start shooting.

When you do want images that show the background, remember the rule of thirds—break the image as seen through the viewfinder into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Placing points of interest at one of the four intersections, rather than dead centre in the frame, will give your photos a much more balanced and appealing look.

And get low to take the shot—sitting or lying down offers the best perspective of both the animal and the hunter. Towering over the subjects tends to diminish the impact of the photo.

Finally, for every pose, take both vertical and horizontal photos, and shoot each one with and without a flash. Even on bright days, a flash will fill in shadows, helping make your pictures pop. And take lots of photos—digital memory is cheap, and you never know which photo will be the winning shot.