Don’t Horse Around with Animal Shots

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.

Related Articles:

Basic Photo Tips for Digital Camera Owners

Cameras: Knowing When To Upgrade

Telling A Story With Your Shots

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Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.