Tips for Taking Great Livestock Photos


Always keep safety of yourself, others, and the livestock the number one priority.  If you are not the livestock owner, talk with them regarding any specific safety issues relating to the animals or ranch. There may be routines, such as feeding, that may be helpful to document the animals.


Avoid shadows by always keeping the sun at your back or straight overhead.  Slightly overcast days also work well to eliminate shadows.


Always use a modern, high resolution digital camera. Depending on how close you can safely be the animals, a smartphone may be all you need to get high quality pictures and video.  If animals must be photographed from longer distances, a digital camera with zoom capabilities may be required. Always keep the camera lens free from dust and moisture.


Try your best to minimize any distracting background objects.  If you are taking photographs and video in a pen, you may want to stack hay bales in the background to provide an even, non-distracting backdrop. You may also spread hay on the ground to create a nice photo environment.

Photo Angle

Bulls, cows, and show animal photos should be taken with the camera roughly at shoulder height of the animal.  This may require taking a knee to stabilize the camera.  A helper may be required to get the animal’s attention to optimize head position.  Group photos and video should be shot from a slightly elevated vantage point if possible.


Work hard to document animals in a calm, natural state.  Animals that are stressed and pressured do not photograph well.  Videos of animals walking at a natural pace work best for potential buyers.


Be creative with your photos and videos.  In challenging situations, you may choose to mount a camera in a corral for distraction free photos and video from a distance.  Creative camera technology, such as GoPro, may also make for helpful marketing material.


If more than one animal is being sold, do your best to document the entire lot of animals.  Work hard to show group consistency when working with multiple animals.  In no case should image/video touchups be used to hide an animal’s physical characteristics. Lighting and true color corrections are acceptable forms of image/video modification.


The procedure for editing photos and video varies by camera. Great resources, such as YouTube, are available for step by step instructions on how to best work with your camera, images, and video.

Here is an example of a pen setup for photos and video.  Note the shadow placement and consideration for background distractions.


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