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Taxidermy Photography

Discussion in 'Wildlife Artwork and Crafts' started by RyanWarner, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. RyanWarner

    RyanWarner New Member

    A few weeks ago I had an idea to take my (soon to be) Father-In-Laws white tail mounts into the woods and attempt to photograph them so they would appear to be alive. Well it worked out pretty well, I think so anyways. This gave me an idea, maybe this type of service is something that hunters or taxidermist would be interested in? So I worked up a website, a few fliers and some hand outs and have been canvasing the area. I'm also trying to get as much feed back as I can on this project, so what better place then here to ask a few questions.

    Here's the website

    After looking over that really quick and simple website, what is you take?

    Do you understand what type of service I'm trying to offer?
    Is this something that you think your customers would want?
    Is this something that you think could help your business?
    What would a service like this bee worth to you?

    And just in case you don't feel like jumping over to the site here are few of those photographs.




    Thank you
  2. Igor J.

    Igor J. New Member

    What taxidermy, they look so alive on those photos :)
    Great idea, way to go!

  3. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    Ryan, it's just my perspective, but most of us taxidermists are accustomed to having our mounts presented under ideal lighting (which you can't get outside) and in front of a professional backdrop. That provides us with a disassociation of the mount being "live" as we really depend on making them look better than they might have in life. Real or live backgrounds tend to be distracting to the mount. But again, that's MY feelings.
  4. RyanWarner

    RyanWarner New Member

    Thank you Igor.

    So George in your opinion a good mount presentation is when you can isolate the mount without any distractions and to present it in a way that makes it look like a mount. You do this because you want people to know that it's a mount because of all the work that goes into making it. Makes sense to me. If you have time could you answer just one question for me. In your opinion do your clients want a mount because if the art of taxidermy or because they want to display their trophy in a life like manor?

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  5. George

    George The older I get, the better I was.

    The majority of MY customers want it for bragging rights. If it's not the biggest,then they want to have MORE mounts than their buddy does. Sadly, more than a few seldom notice the work I did but just how big the "horns" are.
  6. timberlandtaxidermy

    timberlandtaxidermy Taxidermy Instructor NTA Certified Judge

    Exactly George!
    The majority of my clients say "wow! Nice job!" when picking up their mounts. The whole time they're looking at the rack, and not the nictitating membrane, caruncle or the septum! (I put them in all my mounts)
    Sad but true.
  7. RyanWarner

    RyanWarner New Member

    Maybe this oversight is less intentional then you think. Before I started to do research for this project I had no idea of the level of craftsmanship that goes into a mount. Maybe they just don't understand what it takes to make a mount so impressive.

    Thanks for the input guys. Maybe it's just me trying to find the silver lining but if your clients only want a trophy that they can show off then maybe there is a market for this idea. After all having both the mount and a unique photograph of the mount would allow them to show it off in more locations.

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  8. madarchery

    madarchery callmaker

    Ryan don't give up, I think you have a money maker here.

    What George said has truth to those really looking at the mounts detail "taxidermists" to the average hunter this is cool. The only concern I have is the logistics of shipping the mount for photography. Maybe work with your local taxidermist to eliminate this, you could also work on your Photoshopping skills and use provided photos.

    The pics provided do look a little mount like. The close up center fram shots gives a nice portrait, the off center makes me think bad composition or something missing (body ;D) I wonder if a farther away shot would help with the offcenter scenes? Or maybe have a tree/brush that the deer is coming around?

    I think the information you seek will be easier obtained from hunting sites. There is an archery site that talks hunting in a very big way with many hardcore obsessed hunters.
  9. RyanWarner

    RyanWarner New Member

    Thank you for the feedback.

    I agree that I have to work in my local area, shipping is too costly and too much of a risk if you ask me. I do plan on talking to some local taxidermists, just to get a feel for what they think.

    I agree that some of them do look mount like, something that I think can be remedied by more practice and through the critiques of people who have an eye for these things, such as yourself. If I can prove to myself that this project is a money maker (not looking to be rich, just make a living) I would like to have an adjustable stand that I can put the mounts on. I think this will free up the composition and allow me to better utilize the envelopment. Right now I'm limited to hanging the mount on a tree, it's a bit tricky to get the mount at the right angle and in the right location. I'd also love to have a full headless body that I could place a mount on and photograph, this is just a pipe dream right now.

    Again, thank you for the feedback, I'll look into posting on hunting forums and see what I get.
  10. madarchery

    madarchery callmaker

    The thing for me as I further look at the pics is the lack of layers. You have the mount and then the unfocused background, seems to be missing something in the foreground(branches) and the middle seems empty (again branches?)

    And I think if you can work in photoshop with stock backgrounds you could really broaden your reach.

    But its a great start. :)
  11. madarchery

    madarchery callmaker

    I think you would do well to get an elevated "treestand" perspective ;)
  12. 3bears

    3bears Well-Known Member

    There is a need for good taxidermy photos. How often do we read " I am a taxidermist not a photographer". When putting together a web site professional photos will most likely look better. In my opinion the mounts themselves are the issue. They look clean but have some issues. Learn to appreciate what it takes to make a good mount and take pics from the angles that best display the strong points of the mount. Not every mount looks it's best from every angle. If that makes sense? I am not trying to discourage you at all. Good luck 3bears
  13. gavinm95

    gavinm95 70 Pound Black Eastern Coyote

    I COMPLETELY disagree George. I always think outdoor lighting IS the most ideal lighting, and that pictures of mounts in front of proffesional backdrops always look fake and crappy, no matter how good the job looks in person. Even if your goal is to make them better looking than life, usually a studio picture makes them look WORSE than life. Outdoor lighting always helps make the mounts better, in my opinion.

    Even if people don't want their OWN mounts photographed, I still think this is cool, and would be a great idea for magazines or ads in which a controlled set is ideal. Being able to set up a scene with a mounted deer in a private environment is A LOT easier than trying to take a picture of a wild animal in the wild.

    If you don't mind a little criticism, you should try to get the deer to fill the frame more. Even though they look life-like, the borders being on the deers' shoulders kind of makes them look mounted. Except for the last one; that's my favorite!
  14. RyanWarner

    RyanWarner New Member

    madarchery: I will keep that in mind next time I am out shooting. I do have some other photos that included a lot of branches in the photo, like the one bellow.
    But, I think you are right, if there is more imperfections in the photo, from a photographic stand point, they will look more realistic. A tree stand POV is on my list of need-to-try. I'm not a big fan of photoshoping backgrounds into photos, it's not that I think it's cheating or anything like that, I just prefer to do the actual work. I do have a few ideas for some really different backgrounds, but I still need to hash out all of them.

    This photograph was just for fun.

    3bears: Makes perfect sense to me, I'll get on learning more about mounts. Any other good sites (besides this one) to learn about taxidermy? I appreciate any and all feedback man, thanks for taking the time to reply.

    gavinm95: Oddly enough the whole idea started when I started to get into wildlife photography and thought I would get some practice on the mounts. So basically I started doing this because it was easier then waiting in the woods and hoping that a deer would wounder by. I completely agree that the more of the deer is in the frame the better it looks. I think a portable stand would really help in composition. Thank you for the feedback.
  15. RyanWarner

    RyanWarner New Member

    I really appreciate all the feedback. It's nice to be able to bounce my ideas off of people who know their stuff. I think I have a lot to learn but I'm excited to dig in and work this out.

    Is there maybe a side of this service that I am over looking? You spend upwards of 10 hours sculpting and tweaking these mounts, but you are always in your shop using reference photos and skill, do you think there would be any learning advantage to seeing that mount in the woods? Do you think that by seeing the finished product in a natural environment you could learn from your work, you could improve your work?

    I am starting to notice that like humans, they do have a good side and a bad side. Part of being a good portrait photographer is being able to find a persons good side. I think I need to refine that skill to improve my work. I also think that I need to make a stand that will free me from the constraints of using a tree.
  16. madarchery

    madarchery callmaker

    The first of the last set helps but to much. Actually the last pic of the first group was my favorite because it had just a few branches to add some layer. But the background focus hurts my eyes. Almost looked like the blur tool in photoshop around the antlers.

    Also I noticed they seem to "float". I know you have no body to work with, but deer are only 4' tall? Not sure how high your hanging them but I wonder of more ground in the photo would help anchor the photo?

    I would imagine the real deal for photography is nice.My thinking about photoshop was to open the market for you by allowing everyone the ability to purchase without shipping a mount across the country..

    Keep at it, I think its worth the time to pursue.
  17. gavinm95

    gavinm95 70 Pound Black Eastern Coyote

    Yeah, but without them, the mount would look really bad. Something would just look "off" without them, and although people may not notice them right away, they really complete the mount.

    I was once watching a video about the production of a videogame, and the sound editor was talking about the sound of footsteps in the game. He said, "No one ever stops while they're playing the game and says 'Wow, those are great-sounding footsteps!'. But without them, the game wouldn't seem as realistic."

    Besides, as the years go on and the more the customers look at the mount, the more details (and mistakes ;)) they notice that the may not have noticed before. Like watching a movie over and over. You realize the full meanings of lines and spot more movie mistakes!
  18. gavinm95

    gavinm95 70 Pound Black Eastern Coyote

    True dat. In-camera effects, backgrounds, etc. are always the way to go. You should always try in-camera stuff first, then use computer power as a last resort. I work with Photoshop and After Effects all the time (working on video mostly), and have found that in-camera is always what you should try first. :)
  19. RyanWarner

    RyanWarner New Member

    madarchery: The background blur you refer to is called Bokeh in the photography world. The lens I have chosen to use is a 70-210mm which is a telephoto lens, the reason I use that lens is because we are accustomed to seeing photographs of deer at that focal length. I don't have a great example of the difference between a 210mm and a 50mm (50mm is the human eye equivalent) but here is one I took with a 50mm lens and it just doesn't have the right feel, to me anyways.
    It probably doesn't help that the deer is at such a dominating position, I'll explain that in a little bit. So the reason the Bokeh is so extreme on the photograph you are referring to is due to the lens focal length, the distance between the deer (focused area) and the background, and the aperture used on the lens. As you adjust all three of these factors you get different results, the closer to the object you are focusing on you get the more pronounced the Bokeh will become and the smaller the in focus area will become. As you increase the distance between yourself and your subject the bokeh decreases. In that photograph I was shooting at 210mm and the mount was taking up the whole frame, so I was as far out as I could get. the bokeh is pronounced because of the distance between the deer and the background, there is a good 10' wide path between the deer and the background. I chose that spot for that reason, I really wanted the deer to be well isolated from the background. I did try and decrease the bokeh by adjusting the aperture, but as you can see in the photo bellow, all that did was make the background even more distracting.
    You will also notice that some of the branches in the foreground have also become more distracting.

    gotta run...I'll try and post again latter today to further discus all this fun stuff.
  20. madarchery

    madarchery callmaker

    I will leave the photo stuff up to you. I am greener then green when it comes to anything over point and shoot. Just trying to point out the distractions that I see to make a better product.