Farmstay U.S. Blog

Created for and by travelers and the farmers, these posts will cover a variety of topics related to farm stays in the U.S.

Taking Better Animal Photos

This blog post was written by Susan Gibbs of Juniper Moon Farm and originally appeared on her blog. She has kindly given us permission to re-post it here, and we hope it will inspire our readers to get out there and take some photos for the Farm Stay U.S. 2011 photo contest!

Taking Better Animal Photos by Susan Gibbs


Let me start me start with a disclaimer: as a photographer, I make a very good shepherd. I have almost no training whatsoever in photography and everything you're about to read is based on nothing more than years of trial and error and figuring out what works for my own pictures.

I do, however, get asked all the time how I get the shots of my flock that I post on the blog. I'm happy to share my secrets, if you can call them that. BTW, all of the photos in this post are unedited because I want to show you what you can do no matter what kind of camera or software you have.

1. Take more pictures. Lots more. The more you shoot, the greater the odds are that you'll get one good one. It isn't unusual at all for me to take 300 or 400 shots in an afternoon and, if I'm lucky, I'll have three or four photos I consider worth posting on the blog. If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, your odds will be a bit longer because most point-and-shoots don't work as quickly as animals move. It was the frustration with that lag time that led me to buy my first digital SLR and I would never consider shooting animals with anything else.

2. Get down on your subjects level. This is the easiest way to improve your photos of animals and probably children. I see so many pictures of lambs on other peoples blog that are clearly taken standing above the animal, and, cute though the lamb may be, the pictures just aren't very compelling.

This isn't always easy to do. Some times I have to lay flat on the ground in the barnyard or on the floor of the barn to get good shots. Sometimes I pick the animal up and bring him/her up to my level. It definitely helps to wear clothes that you don't mind getting dirty in.

Here are a couple of examples of what I'm talking about:

goats from above

shot from above


goats eye level

shot from the goats' eye level


chicks from above

chicks from above


chicks eye level
chicks eye level


In both of the first pictures you can tell that the animals are cute but the in the second pictures you can really see them.

3. Get closer. Then get closer still. You really want to fill up the frame with the subject.

a lamb too far

too far


lamb closer


See the difference? And while we're on the subject, unless you're shooting man-eating tigers, zoom with your feet, not your lens.

lambs not close enough

close, but not close enough


lambs much better
much better!


4. It's all about the eyes. Okay so now you're on the animals level and your really, really close. Start shooting and look for moments when the animal is looking at you full on, where both eyes are on you.

cow okay

This is an okay shot but…


cow better

this one is orders of magnitude better.


There is no way to get these kind of shots without taking many, many, many pictures. Here's another example:

lamb almost



lamb very close

Very close. I probably would have gone with this pic had I not gotten a better one.


lamb just right

This. This is exactly what I wanted this picture to do. You can really see this lamb's personality in this photo.


One more example:

sheep good

Pretty good.


sheep better
Much better


Of course, not every picture has to have the animal looking directly into the camera, but if he's not, then it should be deliberately so, as in this pic:

cow not looking
I hope you'll find these little tricks helpful. Play around with them, take loads of pictures and let me know what you think.

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