One of my young daughter’s favorite parts of summer vacation is attending the state fair. As a die hard animal lover, she lives to see prize-winning livestock up close and personal. Last year she went eye-to-eye with a 500-pound sow and knee-to-eye with a massive Clydesdale. I try to capture the magical moments with my digital camera, but am not always successful. This year, however, I am planning to incorporate a few tips I learned from a friend who used to shoot livestock photos for farm brochures. Here are just a few gems he passed on to me:
Prepare the animal: If you are working exclusively with a show animal that you are getting paid to snap, it is vital that it is groomed to perfection. Whether you are shooting a rabbit, cow or goat, be sure the animal is clean and is posed in front of a natural-looking background. Avoid shooting an animal in front of clutter, as you don’t want to distract from your main subject.
Anticipate reaction: Cows, goats and horses don’t behave like human photo subjects. By knowing as much as possible about a particular animal, you can better anticipate how it will react when you approach it with a camera. In addition, it helps to select your lighting and angles before you start snapping.
Experiment with different positions: Set-up your tripod, so that you are shooting from the side. A full side view or a three-quarters view is optimal for larger show animals. The key is to get the animal to look as alert and healthy as possible.
Practice patience: When it comes to shooting animals, patience is key. Depending on your shooting conditions and the mood of the animal, it may be a while before you get the photo you are aiming for. Also, when photographing livestock, it pays to be calm. Animals are highly sensitive and can sense when a person is tense or uncomfortable.