“A picture is worth a thousand Words”, How many times have we heard that phrase?  Well in my world, a calf picture is worth a thousand words and that “Killer Picture” might be worth a Thousand dollars or more.  I am going to share some ideas of taking cattle pictures.  I am an amateur  photographer and writer but my passion is cattle and one of my favorite hobbies of late is trying to snap the perfect picture of the calves I’m proud of. 


RSC Steerplanet Photo


Taking  good calf pictures that will draw attention from potential buyers is more about working the cattle: not just knowing how to work a camera or a computer.  You can talk to your friend or potential buyer about your great one till your blue in the face but if you pull out that killer photo,  come Sunday he’s got the truck fueled up and he’s bringing Mom and the kids over to check out your calves.  Most of the following will be the ideas I have of taking baby calf pictures without the  use of having them broke on the halter.  I will also share a few tips I have in taking presentable pictures of the halter broke cattle. 

Before we get started let’s talk about what we will need.  I use a Kodak 10xZoom digital camera with 7.1 mega pixels with good view window in the back of the camera and a secure neck strap to keep the camera safe around my neck.  I hardly every look through the small viewing lens as I like to see the calf through the review button on the back viewing window.  Another tool that I use is the ATV.  

There are two different methods that work for me in taking calf pictures.  The first is taking them along side the cow and the second is sorting off the calf.  Taking pictures with momma in their with the calf can be difficult.  The second you get the calf to give you that look, the cow sees you giving her calf attention and walks between you and calf to lead her baby away from danger.  Getting the calf away from the cow and comfortable to be on his own is the key to that Alert standout photo.  You will want to spend some time with cows and calves before you ever attempt your photo shoot.  Get the calf used to being driven away from their mom.  If they get used to you being there looking at them with Mom close by and no danger, sooner or later he will give you that look.  If you have your cattle in a large area, you will want to spend some time with an ATV or truck getting the cows used to you driving between them and their baby.

When I go into the pen to take photos, the first thing I look for is the calves that I want to photo that are resting while mom is grazing or at the feeder.  Take your time and approach them without startling them.  Once they start to get up stop, keep still and zoom in with your camera and wait.  If they aren’t startled  they will stand up, stretch out first and probably urinate next.  Wait for that tail to drop and have the camera ready to shoot, once they are done going to the restroom they will look forward and give you a few seconds to get that good profile picture.

Once the sleeping babies are done, it’s time to picture the calves that are with their dam.  With a very patient attitude, start trying to split the pair.  Circle do it again than repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat this until the calf gets comfortable with you standing between him or herself and the cow.  Once the calf is separated from the dam and not startled, you have your chance to take that alert looking side profile picture.  Once the calf gives you the look, don’t move as you will startle him.  Use your zoom to get where you want to be, than snap several pictures as you never know which shot will turn out.

The 2nd method of taking them is sorting the calf away from the cow.  It takes more time upfront but in the end may be quicker.  Sort the calves into a small pen preferably with open sided panels.  Have the cow right outside the pen so that she can touch noses with the calf.  If the calf knows that momma  is right their, they will be less likely to get startled.  If you have some people to help, have a person standing in each corner of the pen slowly turning the calf to the center of the pen where your at.  Then snap away.  Before you turn the calf back with the dam,  review your pictures with your digital camera an make sure you have the photo your looking for.

Let’s talk a few tips of taking halter broke cattle pictures for a second.  Let’s say someone calls and is interested in a calf but wants to see a photo.  If you are limited with time and help,  try what I call the “ Who Pose”.  We’ve all seen the picture of WMW tied to the fence.  First make sure and find a spot where the ground next to the fence is a few inches higher than where the calf’s back feet will be.  Tie the calf to the fence with the head high but not cranked.  Make sure the calf has room to move their head and give you that look.  Approach the calf get it into place to give you a good profile than use a show stick to place the feet.  Back up and view with your camera.  Make sure when viewing the photo through your camera that the topline and feet are placed  where you would like.  If the top is a little out of place, I will slowly approach the calf and use my scotch comb to run over the top to relax it and give me the appearance I’m looking for.  

Once you’re ready to snap the picture make sure the ears are going forward.  I have even had my four year old boy go on the other side of the fence and communicate with the calf to get them alert.

Once you’re done post your pictures on a website or the “Planet” and let others give you opinions.  Opinions will make you work to be better.  I have a website that I built myself.  I have had one produced by a cattle site before.  I like the build your own sites as it allows me to change constantly and add photos often.

As I was preparing to write this:  I was visiting with a close Cattle friend of mine.  He was telling me how the truck he purchased in 2002 and could fill with fuel for $45 now costs $90 to fill.  As it get’s more expensive to run a small cowherd, we’re all searching for that extra idea that will bring in a few more dollars and help keep us ahead.  With the exposure you can get today on the worldwide web,  a few pictures that make 2-3 calves bring an extra $500 per head might be what will help.  Give it a try, I enjoy it.