How to Photograph Your Turkey Trophy

By John Trout, Jr.

After the turkey hunt, don’t forget the photos!
Follow these 10 tips to get the best trophy gobbler pictures.

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A strutting tom is a beautiful sight as he approaches. With today’s digital cameras, you can easily make this memory last forever after the kill. (Photo by John & Vikki Trout)

The era of digital photography has made it much easier for sportsmen to create memories that last forever. Compared to the cameras and the cost of film during the olden days, you can now get more and better trophy gobbler photos than ever before. Here are 10 ways to make certain you capture and preserve the best possible memory from your hunt.

1.  Clean Up the Gobbler
Unlike the whitetail deer, turkeys are seldom as messy. Nevertheless, blood should first be wiped off the neck and head. Second, make certain feathers are not out of place. If the turkey is wet, spread the wings and tail fan and hang the bird in direct sunlight or where the wind can dry the feathers before shooting photos.

2.  Avoid Busy Backgrounds
Select a location where the background won’t distract from the primary subjects, such as you and the gobbler. One example would be a hilltop in an open area where a sky background exists. However, any open area where the woods or brush is a considerable distance behind the subject could make a wonderful location. If you’re feeling creative, try photographing the hunter and bird along the edge of a woods, but make sure dense vegetation isn’t right against the subject’s background.

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Any type of floral touch in the background, such as these yellow wildflowers, can make your “spring” hunt look breathtaking. (Photo by John & Vikki Trout)

3.  Position the Turkey
The most popular scenario is to position the hunter behind the tom’s tail fan. This always provides colorful photos, and shows the turkey’s most beautiful plumage. Nevertheless, consider having the hunter throw the bird over a shoulder, as if they are packing out the gobbler. This often shows the “real hunt,” and could better show the gobbler’s long, thick beard.

4.  Closeness Counts
The mistake I see most often when looking at trophy photos is too much distance between the photographer and subject. Yes, closeness counts. The ideal frame is to have only a small amount of landscape around the subjects. If the centered subjects consist of about two-thirds of the photograph, you are in business. Unless the scenery is the main reason for the photo, avoid showing more scenery than hunter and gobbler.

5.  Add Landscape
Although I just discussed the benefits of avoiding busy backgrounds and making sure the subjects are close, there are times that a little landscaping adds to the photograph. One example would be a farmland scene. Alternatively, you might want to add a rolling hill, clouds, fenceline or something else that shows your hunting area along with your trophy tom. Landscapes are wonderful additions, providing the subjects are to one side or the other of the photograph. In other words the hunter and turkey should be on the left or right side of the frame and take up about one-third of the photograph. I would also suggest you shoot only horizontal photos, since these usually produce the best landscapes.

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The hunter doesn’t always need to place the gobbler on the ground and kneel behind the tail fan to create a magnificent photo. (Photo by John & Vikki Trout)

6.  Lighting and Shadows
The golden rule of photography is to make certain the sun is behind the photographer. Always avoid shooting into the sun. This often creates backlighting, which blackens the gobbler and hunter. Nothing beats a soft lighting, usually the result of high clouds. This also rids the area of shadows. If shadows are present, make sure the subject is moved away from them.

7.  Show What Counts
Because a gobbler doesn’t have headgear, make sure the turkey’s neck and head are not the primary subject of the photograph. It’s far more important to make certain the beard and colorful feathers show. Always keep this in mind before clicking the shutter. Make sure the beard is not pinned under a bird’s breast, and that at least one wing or tail fan is spread.

8.  Camo Clothing and Hat
Camouflage clothing always adds the perfect touch to a turkey hunting photograph. The camo hat is also a major plus, even if it advertises your favorite product. Blue jeans and colorful hats that advertise your favorite sports team are not recommended. If you have a turkey hunting vest, make sure it’s in the photo. The same goes for your gun or bow, since they will add to the photographic memories many years later.

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A tripod and a self-timer on the camera allow you to shoot wonderful photographs of your trophy when you have nobody to help. (Photo by John & Vikki Trout)

9.  If You’re Alone
Yes, it is possible to capture wonderful photos if you have no one to help. Many of today’s digital cameras include a self-timer. You can set the timer to shoot the photograph in so many seconds, giving you time to set up with the gobbler. A tripod (or other camera support device) will take the place of the person who holds the camera. First, though, you will want to look through the viewfinder to make certain you have the proper alignment and framing.

10.  Shoot Lots of Photos
Regardless of whether you shoot the photos yourself with the aid of a tripod, or have someone else assist you, always shoot lots of photographs. As the old saying goes, “Film is cheap.” Pixels are even cheaper, and because photos are stored on a memory card, you no longer have to pay for processing. One secret to good photos is lots of photos, so the more you shoot, the more you have to choose from!


john-trout-jr-236x235About John Trout, Jr.

Southern Indiana hunter John Trout, Jr. is a full-time freelance writer and photographer specializing in whitetail deer, wild turkey and black bear. He has authored eight books and his work has appeared in nearly every publication in North America. You’ll enjoy a visit his website at

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