Golden Hours: Most photos of cattle are taken in natural light. Use morning and evening light to your advantage, when light is beautiful, more dramatic, and “golden.” Cloudy days are also a favorite of mine, as they allow for a longer window of perfectly filtered photographic light. Try to avoid the hot light of a mid-day sun.
The Eyes: If you include the eye as a focal image of your photo, ensure the focus of the eye is sharp. I typically set my focus point on the eyes, so that I can quickly change other camera settings, yet the eyes remain my focus point. While we’re talking about eyes, try taking photos at the cow’s eye level for a change of perspective.
Get Creative with Framing: Using zoom lenses allow you to photograph cattle from a safe distance, and allow you to change the framing of an image quickly. Also, play with a variety of lenses. Wide angle lenses allow for dramatic landscaping, if you have a bigger scene to capture. Unless you’re taking a traditional conformation photo, the entire cow doesn’t have to be in the photo. Don’t limit yourself to horizontal framing. Vertical photos allow for familiar portrait-style images.
Know your Surroundings: I prefer photos that don’t have fences obscuring the cow, but that’s not always possible. When you must have a fence in frame, make it part of the scene purposefully. Always be aware of fences, uneven ground, or other hazards, and be sure you are keeping yourself in a safe place.
Pique Curiosity: I enjoy photographing cattle doing what they normally do. But not every photo needs to be of a sleepy-eyed cow! Arm yourself (or an assistant) with the squeaker from a dog toy. Understand the scene and prepare for your photo. When ready, grab the animal’s attention with a few rapid squeaks. It’s not a noise they’re familiar with, and you will be able to easily capture an alert, bright-eyed subject.
Know your Gear: Great images can be taken with any camera, and knowing how to use your camera is important. Familiarize yourself with your camera and its settings, so that you are able to quickly react and capture a great photo.
Know Your Subject: Spending time with the animals will get you familiar with their routines, and will make them comfortable with you. Comfort and familiarity is what has provided me with most opportunities to photograph more personal moments, like calving and nursing, without causing distress.
About Anna Wright - Born in northeastern Washington and has always had a love of art, horses and nature. She is a photographer, illustration, and designer. Her website is sweetmissdaisy.typepad.com
Reprinted from The Dexter Cattle Journal Fall 2018 issue