Tips for Photographing Livestock

While you needn't spend hours trying to get that perfect picture, with a little extra effort and patience you can take good photos of your livestock that will help them sell faster, and quite possibly for more money!

Animals come in all shapes, sizes and temperaments. Further complicating the task, depending on what you are photographing, you may face lighting challenges. For instance, photographing chickens in a coup using flash may simply scare them off. Getting close enough to a bison to get a good shot can also be a challenge.

Exercise Caution:
You may be an "old hand" when it comes to handling animals. But have you ever tried photographing them before? Animals can feel intruded upon or even threatened by a camera and/or flash. And it's easy to forget safety precautions while you're concentrating on photographing. Stay aware!

Lighting:

Indoors:
Trying to take photographs in a barn can present lighting challenges. What looks bright enough to the human eye may register quite a bit darker in a photo. Using a flash can scare animal you are photographing.

It's best to use both natural and regular indoor lighting, if possible. Try opening those big barn doors as much as possible to let in all available light. You can also set up a temporary work light or two above the animal.  If you open the doors to allow in the natural light you don't want the animal in direct sunlight.

If all else fails, try the flash and hope for the best, but be prepared for the animal to startle or bolt.

Outdoors:
A bright, sunny day is not always the best for photographing. Your camera will make shadowy areas go black, and light areas look washed out (overly bright). This can be especially challenging when there is snow on the ground. Your animal(s) will appear almost black while the snow glows bright white.

Overcast days are often best. More balanced colors will help the interested buyer to better see your animal's features.

The Surroundings:
Farms aren't always tidy. Photos can call to attention that unsightly pile of rags or equipment parts in the background that you never noticed. Better to clean up the area where you are photographing as much as possible. Or move the animal to a different spot. When you are ready to take the picture look through the camera and examine everything that isn't your animal.  Remove anything that doesn't look right, or reposition the animal and camera.

Whenever possible, avoid taking photographs of livestock in areas that are very wet and muddy.

Bath Time:
Animals get dirty. Anyone who is in the market for livestock knows this. But in photographs, animals will appear to be better cared for and healthier if they are clean.

Fill the Picture:
It's important to show the whole animal, or group of animals. However, you can also take close-up shots of livestock , especially if your animal has a specific feature or characteristic you think will help sell it.

Take More than One Picture: 
If you are selling just one or two animals, you may want to photograph them from the front, back and both sides. This simply gives the interested buyer a fuller picture of what he is buying.

Foreground:
Don't let what is between you and the animal you are photographing come between you and a sale! Try to eliminate anything in the foreground that is distracting or obscures a full view of the animal. Move around so the fence isn't showing in the picture.  Remember to check your background as well.

Camera Height:
Move your camera so you aren't looking down at your animal.  If you are photographing chickens try and get the camera only a few inches above the chicken's eyes.  At the same time you don't want to be looking way up when you take a picture of your horse.

Practice:
Don't expect to get great shots the first time you try. Instead, if possible schedule more than one session. The mistakes and challenges you identify the first time around will undoubtedly help you get better results when you try again.