A big part of the photography work I do involves animals. Cows, horses, dogs, and cats primarily, but sometimes there are pigs, sheep, chickens and other such farm variety animals.
Loving animals is as natural to me as drinking water, and photographing them takes a little more work with a dash of thought and a bit of preparation.
Never fear, if you are using a high-end camera or your cell phone, I have a few tips for getting a lovely shot of your favorite animal pal.
Tips for Photographing Animals
Preparation: If you’re shooting on farmland or in a barn, make sure the owner knows what your plan is so they can assist you. If working with people and humans, determine the expectations and figure out the steps to pull off the shot (EX: cleaning, clipping, feeding, staging, etc.) Prep the proper gear and get ready to have fun!
Safety: Whether you’re photographing animals or just going out for pets, you have to keep safety in the back of your mind. If it’s your dog or a cow, you can not tell what they are thinking or how they might react to a camera or phone in their space. My suggestion here is to take in your surroundings, understand where it is safe for you to work with the animal and how to get out of harm’s way if necessary. Make sure the animal first trusts you and allows you to come near it. Farm animals are big and have blind spots so do your best to make your presence known. Do some test shots so they get used to your movements and the sound.
Taking Photos: Now we all know that as soon as you pull out a camera, your pet will likely stop doing that cute thing it was doing a second ago. It happens to me all the time, but do not be discouraged!
When working with house pets, it’s a safe bet to keep small treats on hand so you can encourage a pose you want. Having someone else with you to distract, play with or guide the animal is always helpful and will result in getting some naturally adorable shots! A secret I have is to whistle or make a strange sound to perk up ears.
Now for farm animals, it might take even more patience.
Out in a field or show right with cattle and horses, it’s important the animal knows you are there and is comfortable. If you have a zoom lens for a higher end camera, this is even easier, as you don’t have to put yourself in any strange situations and still achieve lovely shots.
However, don’t be afraid to get close and personal with animals. Farm animals are typically very docile, and if you are relaxed, they will be too. (I swear cows especially can smell fear and anxiety.)
Having fed animals is absolutely necessary. Make sure the owner has done their feeding for the day, and the animals will be even more at ease. This is a crucial step because you can get some more natural shots of them eating. (P.S. Shots of the farmer in their element are pretty cool and appreciated too!)
If doing a shoot involving animals and people, I highly recommend sticking to natural posing. Riding or walking horses, walking through fields with cows… stuff like that. In my personal opinion, trying to pull off complicated poses can be frustrating for everyone and the animal.
Don’t forget to be creative! Change perspectives, try new things, and have fun!
This is blog 19 of 28 of the #28DaysOfBloggingChallenge! See the Day 1 post for more details on why I’m participating!
Would you like to document your family or farm with heirloom photos and a written story to share with your family, friends and future generations? Contact photographer and writer Alyssa Bloechl for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 920-445-8727.