There's a lot on the line on picture day. The images you'll capture will serve as the standard by which your livestock will be judged. The results of your sale and the success of your operation depend on you nailing every shot. Combine all that pressure with animals doing what animals do and you have a recipe for high stress situations.
In my experience, there are a few things that can diffuse a bad situation and there are a lot of things that can make it worse. Here are the things that are an absolute no-go in my picture pen. And, when I say absolute no-go, I mean I will think long and hard about packing up to leave before I put up with it.
1. Ramrodding. From the first moment you step into a set of animals you're going to picture, until the last animal is done for the day, calm, patient, and respectful livestock handling is a must. There's no room for ramrodding livestock around. Being too aggressive with your handling gets animals worked up and they'll stay on edge until they return to their normal surroundings. From the gather to the gate, slow and steady wins the race.
2. Yelling. From pigs that won't eat, drink, or chew on anything to bulls with bad attitudes, livestock present any number of difficult situations which the photographer needs to manage. There's something about yelling that sends the stress level over the edge for everyone in the picture pen; animals and people alike.
3. Treating help poorly. As much as it seems like this doesn't need mentioned, you'd never believe how many times I've seen people treated poorly on picture day. The most common occurance of people losing their temper with each other happens within a family unit. We've all shown our worst side to our families, so it's a whole lot easier to lose control when we're working with them as opposed to folks who've showed up to work for the day.
4. Being distracted. If you can't concentrate on the job at hand, please get out of the way. Lose the cell phone until it's time to take a break. If you're in the pen, or you have one in the chute, don't take the call and don't read the text unless you're absolutely sure it's more important than the work in front of you.
Avoid these four things at all costs and picture day will run a little smoother and, if you ever find the stress levels rising in the picture pen, don't be afraid to take a break. Walking away for just ten minutes can help everyone catch their breath.
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B.J. Eick is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker with a passion for animal agriculture.
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