Basics of Photographing Your Homestead
Ready, Aim, Click
By Alexis Griffee, Florida
Whether you are trying to sell a gallon of milk or a goat, quality photography sells products and connects you with your clients like no other marketing tool can. People want to feel connected and informed. By offering photography, you are giving them a chance to make an informed decision. However, photography can be a double-edged sword. While good photos will sell your products, poor photography can have the opposite effect and actually drive potential clients away. You do not have to be an expert to achieve quality, professional results from your photography. Through following some basic photography rules, you can transform mundane photos into a powerful marketing tool for your farm.
A sure fire way to instantly improve your photography is to be mindful of your background. One of the most common mistakes made by the amateur photographers is to focus only on their subject and not pay attention to other things in the image. No matter how nice your animal or product is, you will not make a good impression on a potential buyer like that. An image does not have to have something unsavory in the background to be ruined. Anything extra that draws the attention away from your main subject will detract from the photo. This can be anything from a person to a manure pile. Photography is a great way to show off your farm but it can also work against you if you take images with backgrounds that make your farm appear unclean, even if it is only a tiny aspect of your property!
Similar to being mindful of your background, another common issue in photographs is reflections. Reflections are often found even in areas where you would least expect them. Whether it is in a window or just on a shiny surface, reflections can be just as distracting as bad backgrounds when it comes to photography. Reflections can range from showing a full body, which appears as an extra person in your image, to a distracting blur of random colors. As annoying as reflections in your photographs can be, they are also easy to fix. Often times simply adjusting the angle at which you are taking the image can alleviate the reflection. In extreme situations, a reflection may not be able to be avoided. If you simply cannot change the location of the photograph, then you may need to resort to photo altering computer programs to remove the reflection.
When it comes to photographing animals, one of the most important aspects to quality photography is to know your subjects. Animals all have different attributes that need to be highlighted and some that are not desirable and do not need to be emphasized. For example, if you are photographing an American Quarter Horse, a breed known for their large hip and powerful abilities, you will not want to photograph it the same way as you would an Arabian, an animal prized for its refined and delicate features. By knowing your subject you can choose what areas to highlight and thus, what angles to take your images from. Similarly, if you are photographing a dairy goat, you will want to place your emphasis on angling your camera to get a clear shot where the udder is visible. However, if photographing a meat goat, you will want to focus on the strong, muscled areas instead of the udder. In photography, the area that is closest to the camera will look larger. Hence, if you are trying to accentuate the hip size of a horse, you would take the image from that angle. This simple alteration to your image will really make your image stand out and be relevant and customized to your needs.
Likewise, do not be afraid to focus in on features and take images just highlighting that area. If your subject has a certain feature, like a beautiful head on a horse for example, do not be afraid to highlight that. This is where you can really take advantage of knowing your subjects. Even if you are taking standard photos where you need to show the animal’s entire body for potential buyers, do not be afraid to add highlights as well. Often times, it is the emphasis that is placed on these certain specialty images that can be the difference of a buyer going with your stock over another’s.
There is nothing wrong with having multiple photos of your animals!
Do not be afraid to move. All too often amazing photograph opportunities are lost because photographers fail to think outside of the box. Habitually, when taking photos, we tend to do so head on and from straight, direct lines of sight. While this may work on some subjects, it can often distort features, or just make a boring photograph. In the age of digital photography where photos can be deleted at the touch of a button, do not be afraid to experiment! When you are photographing a subject, be it an animal or an object, think outside of the box and look for different perspectives. Sometimes, a boring photo can be made extraordinary by a simple change in the photographer’s position. This can be achieved by shooting your photos from above, below or front or rear angles.
Photography in itself is an art form. In reality, there are no steadfast solid rules. There are some guidelines for composition that can make your photographs more eye catching. While photography itself may not have steadfast rules, biologically, our eyes are created to follow certain guidelines. Various things are picked up by the viewers eyes initially that can set the tone for the image. There are certain steps that you can take as a photographer to ensure that your photos are visually appealing to the viewer. Perhaps one of the most important “rules” is called the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a mental grid, two horizontal and two vertical lines that the photographer places over an image. Our eyes naturally break an image down this way so following these lines will make the image appear more balanced and deliberate to a viewer. The photographer will then place important subjects along the grid lines at the intersecting points. This creates a more balanced photograph.
The human eye is naturally attracted to the lightest color in a photograph. Due to this, it is good to be mindful of any other distractions in your photos that can take away from your main subject. Even if your background is cleared of all extra distractions, simple things like an off-colored halter or collar, or a bright shirt can be a major point of distraction. Other times, it may be a light colored building in the background. Take the time to visualize the image when you are setting it up and always review the images before you pack it up for the photo session. This will allow you to look for any distractions or alterations that need to be made and save you the time of having to recreate an image to fix a simple oversight.
Just as our eyes are instinctually drawn to the lightest area in a photograph, we also have a predisposition to follow lines throughout an image. Leading lines are tricks that photographers use to lead your eye into the main subject of the photo. Using lines to lead the viewer to the main subject of the image will add depth to your photo as well as help balance it out. Man people will use fence lines, trees, or even vegetation to achieve this desired effect.
On the flip side, lines can also work against you when it comes to photography. Lines naturally carry our gaze to other points in an image. If you have other lines that lead the viewer away from the main subject, they can serve as a major point of distraction. Lines that are often distracting and common in farm photos are hoses on the ground, branches, shadows and fence lines. Being cognizant of the strong affect that lines can have on your photo can be a great tool to add an artistic element or to remove a distraction from your photography.
Even if all of the photography guidelines are followed, there is nothing more frustrating than a perfect image being ruined by bad lighting. In photography, lighting can be your best friend or your worst enemy! Lighting itself can be a tricky subject to learn, especially when flashes and artificial light sources are involved. The easiest way to deal with this situation is to take advantage of natural light. Lighting changes throughout the day and that is translated to your photographs. Harsh lighting of high noon can spell disaster for your photos. Try and set up your photography shoots for times when the natural light is soft and filtered, often in the morning or later in the afternoon.
If you have no choice but to take images at a certain time of day, then you can sometimes get help from other aspects from the environment. Sometimes just changing the angle at which you are photographing will eliminate problems like lens flare and blinding light. Sometimes, you can take your photo under the shade of a tree, just be mindful of shadows. Sometimes, just a little bit of creativity can change the whole image and feel of your images and ruin a potentially bad photography shoot!
Photography is more than just a selling tool; clients love to feel connected to you and your homestead. What may be a mundane chore or experience to you could be seen as an exciting adventure to someone that is unable to live the farm life! Never be afraid to document your life through photography! Often times we may have a tendency to view our farm work as mundane. Day in and day out, the same chores need to be done. While we may no longer be impressed with the daily grind of farm chores, these are the things that other people may be craving! Do not be afraid to highlight the “mundane” aspect of your farm life. Some of the best images can be at the times where nothing extraordinary is expected! It is these everyday instances that will give people a glimpse into your farm life, and make them feel a connection to you and your animals. Take advantage of social media to post updates and photos of your farm as well as any of the numerous website building applications available online.
In the age of digital photography, we are fortunate to be able to preview our images and also have virtually unlimited shooting potential. With these advancements, some creativity, and photography tips, everyone can freely take advantage of the world of photography. Never be afraid to try new photography techniques around your farm or homestead. Always remember, what you may feel is mundane can really have an impact on those that are not fortunate enough to live the farming lifestyle. Photography is truly a fantastic way to advertise your homestead, sell livestock or products and share this amazing life with others.