11 Tips for Picturing Your Livestock

rhdRHD Blog

Fall sale season has arrived! For many of us, that means we are climbing into the picture pen with a camera, flag, duck call and sometimes our fastest running shoes. Whether it’s your first time in the picture pen or if you call this your second home, one thing is true about picturing livestock — no two experiences are the same.Raising livestock takes years of planning matings and flushing donors; many sleepless nights of calving/lambing/kidding/farrowing; and months of preparing livestock for sale and show. However, all that planning and preparing seems to never matter once you step into that picture pen.

Raising livestock takes years of planning matings and flushing donors; many sleepless nights of calving/lambing/kidding/farrowing; and months of preparing livestock for sale and show. However, all that planning and preparing seems to really matter once you step into that picture pen. We might never ever be able to guess what the experience that day will be, but we can take steps to make photos run as smooth as possible. Here are 11 tips to help you make picture day(s) as stress-free as possible:


1. Give your help plenty of notice.

Whether you are taking pictures yourself or having a professional come to your farm/ranch make sure you schedule your ideal picture dates as early as possible. Have your photographer, barn help and picture pen help lined up well in advance. Nothing makes the actual picture day more stressful than giving everyone short notice.

2. Make sure you have plenty of help.

Let’s be honest, help is hard to find! On picture day you will be thankful for every additional person who signed on to help you. Family, friends, neighbors and some local high school students interested in the industry are all good people to ask. In my experience, the more help you have (within reason) the less yelling there is likely to be.

3. Think about your picture pen location logistics.


Make sure you have enough room, that there is an incline, what the background looks like and that there are places for your help to get out of the way should they need to. Thinking through this before you get the first animal in the pen will save lots of time and struggle.

4. If you’re the photographer — don’t be afraid to speak up.

This is ESPECIALLY important if you’re taking picture yourself as a family. Despite what the picture pen help may seem to think (aka my husband and father) there is only one person in the pen looking through the camera—the photographer. If the picture isn’t looking good to you don’t be afraid to speak up. Once the pictures come out, they will thank you.

5. If you’re the picture pen help — listen!

Each photographer has their own style. The way they want cattle moved, whether they want to do pictures first or videos first, how long they’ll spend working on a particular pose and how fast/slow they work. It’s important to adapt to that photographers’ style. Again, they’re the only ones in that pen looking through the camera!

6. Be okay with change.

Just because the duck call works on one doesn’t mean it will work on the next one. Each animal is different, it’s important to remember this isn’t a cookie cutter process and be adaptable to get the best shot possible of each animal.

7. Get as much done beforehand as possible.

Often times we are picturing animals that are young and not as used to a long day of stress. Therefore, it’s important to have as much done before you begin picturing as possible. Having as much clipping, hair working and other prep done before the big picture day will ensure you have animals more willing to cooperate.

8. Think outside the box.

Don’t be afraid to try new things, new poses, etc. This day is about getting the best shot of each animal which might be different for each and every one you picture.

9. Schedule your day.

Sun, clouds, time of day will all affect your photographer, your help and especially your livestock. Make sure you have a plan for the day and order of animals to picture before you even begin.

10. Give yourself some wiggle room.

Mother Nature seems to not know or care what day you have scheduled for picture day. Pouring rain, snow, tornado warnings all are very possible depending on where you live. Make sure you’ve built in some flexibility of days and times to get your pictures done.

11. Keep it fun!

Remember raising livestock is something you love to do and picture day is just one step of the process. Don’t let one-day ruin your sale season or family dinner!

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Ashley Fitzsimmons, Ranch House account manager. 

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