How to Take Livestock Photos

Michele Wanke
Learn how to take moo-ving shots of livestock.

Learning how to take livestock photos can help you bring in extra income as a freelance photographer.

Uses for Livestock Photos

There is a huge market for livestock images, which many up-and-coming freelance photographers often overlook. Outstanding photos of cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, and other livestock are used for:

  • Catalogs
  • Auction brochures
  • Calendars
  • Posters
  • Books
  • Pamphlets
  • Greeting cards
  • Advertisements
  • Stock photography websites

If you consistently produce decent photos, then there is no reason you cannot earn a significant income shooting livestock images.

Learn How to Take Livestock Photos

Whether you are trying to make a living selling livestock photos as part of your freelance business or you are simply looking to take better shots of your prized farm animals, consider the following tips:

Preparation is Key

The key to capturing amazing livestock photos is preparation. The more you understand how a particular animal behaves, the better able you will be to anticipate their movements during a photo shoot. Know your animal prior to showing up for a shoot. Animals do not react the same way humans do, which is why it is vital for you to research your subject.

By studying livestock via books or the Internet, you can better predict how they will react during a shoot. In addition, it's a good idea to come into a shoot knowing what you want your photos to say about your animal subject. Doing so will allow you to determine the type of lighting and angles you wish to employ during the shoot.

Natural is Best

When photographing livestock, particularly if the images you are shooting are for sales catalogs or auction brochures, it is important to show the animal in its natural state, without employing any artificial embellishments. Prospective buyers are entitled to view exactly what they are bidding on. This means you should resist the urge to augment livestock images with photo editing software. To ensure that you get quality livestock photos:

  • Grooming: Be sure the animal is clean and shiny.
  • Background: Avoid cluttered spaces that will distract the viewer's attention. Choose an open field as a backdrop rather than a dingy barn.
  • Position: The animal must be properly positioned and posed. Aim for a full side view, or a three-quarters view, or both, with the animal looking alert and alive. The head should be positioned high, the stance should be solid, and the overall appearance should be healthy.

Patience is Pivotal

Don't horse around when taking livestock photos.

When it comes to shooting animals, patience is key. There is a very good chance that you will have to wait a long time in the right place to score a winning shot. Animals have a knack for being uncooperative in front of the camera. By remaining calm and creating a relaxing atmosphere for the animal, you increase your chances of walking away with great shots.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice does make perfect, especially when shooting farm animals. Before your shoot, it's a good idea to get in a few practice sessions. Visit a farm, zoo or ranch and take some pictures of the livestock there. Study the animals' behavior, take notes, and apply what you learned to enhance your photo session.

Top Camera Accessories for Livestock Photos

Not all livestock pictures are meant to be animal "portraits." For example, the rodeo yields a different type of livestock photography, where fast shutter speed and a telephoto lens are essential to capture frame worthy shots.

However, if you are looking to capture a more traditional livestock shot, then it's wise to invest in a portrait lens for your camera. This specialty lens will ensure proper proportions. If you cannot afford to purchase a portrait lens, a normal lens will also produce satisfactory images, provided you work on shooting from the best angles. In addition, it's best to avoid shooting with a wide-angle lens when working with large animals to prevent noticeable distortion.

Other helpful accessories to have on hand during livestock shoots include a fill flash or reflector. This is especially true when the animal is backlit and you want to enhance its appearance and reveal details of its body.

Safety First

When learning how to take livestock photos, remember that safety should always come first. No shot is worth risking your life. Animals are unpredictable and your presence with a camera and bright flash could set them off. Even if a farm animal looks docile, you should never assume that it won't attack when provoked.

How to Take Livestock Photos