Thousands of dollars are spent yearly by owners and breeders to promote their livestock. The dollar benefits received from this advertising depends a great deal on the quality of the photographs used. Public awareness of the animal’s anatomy is a result of good or bad photographs.
Creating top quality photographs is not an easy task. The most important consideration is good light. The best time of the day is either early morning or late afternoon. The lower the sun is, the better the photos will be. Shooting at high noon, especially in the summer produces distracting shadows no matter which angle you choose. Special care must be taken when setting the animal up for the photo to take full advantage of the angle of the sunlight. The sun should be behind you with your shadow pointing towards the subject. Using a flash will minimize harsh shadows but as you have to work from a considerable distance from your subject a very powerful portable light source is not always available. Perfect light illuminates every square inch of the body.
Weather conditions play an important role in the success of your photo session. If the wind is blowing you will need photoshop to repair the damage. Manes and tails flying are only good if you are taking moving shots. For a posed photograph, a calm day is necessary. Heat and cold wreak havoc with the success of the shoot also. Too hot, the animal is drowsy, too cold the hair stands up and does not reflect the light properly.
Next on the list is to choose the perfect background. Usually, no matter where you look there is some sort of evil lurking. Evil to the livestock photographer are poles, fences, bleachers, vehicles, buildings, etc. etc. The best background is nothing. A smooth, grassy spot, grass not over 2″ high with hills fading off into the horizon is ideal.
Avoid photographing any livestock on pavement or gravel. Do not let the handler smack the animal on the side that you are shooting as a mark will be left on the coat. A lot of helpers are also a good investment. The more people there are to set legs and get the animals attention the easier it will be to get the job done. Some show stock are seasoned and will hold a pose, but that is the exception, as a rule, not the norm. It should go without saying that proper preparation of the subject is imperative. Groom as if you were preparing for the judge in the show ring using a show, halter or bridle. Do not use a nylon halter as they are extremely distracting. Beg or borrow the proper tack.
With the invention of the digital camera and sophisticated computer programs just about anything and everything can be manipulated and changed, and it is. A photographers job is a lot easier now when needing to clean images, but to Judy, the creation of a perfect image without manipulation is very rewarding.
Judy Dahl’s photographic artistry quickly developed into her being the first accredited Canadian Livestock and Equine Photographer.