If you're just getting started with livestock photography, you may have a lot of questions about gear, and that's okay! We've got you covered.
Here are the key pieces of equipment for every livestock photographer:
Camera: A digital camera with interchangeable lenses.
You can still shoot film if you want, but I doubt you want to if you're going to be a livestock photographer. You can choose a DSLR or mirrorless camera. The go-to camera bodies have full-frame sensors and shoot fast, but start where you are or where you can. Always remember - you can save a TON of money and really upgrade your budget by buying used. Be sure to check out our Equipment Buying Guide.
I'm currently shooting the Canon 5DMKIV.
Batteries & Chargers: Strictly speaking of photography, you shouldn't burn through too many batteries, so have at least two batteries and one charger. After years of trying to save money, I always stick to the name-brand batteries as the off-brand batteries just don't seem to have the same total lifespan.
Lens: A zoom lens that covers the focal distance between 50mm and 200mm.
The go-to lens for livestock photographers working outdoors is the 70-200mm f2.8. The go-to lens for livestock photographers working at a backdrop is the 24-70mm f2.8. Like the camera bodies mentioned above, these lenses can be really expensive, so start where you're at, use a kit lens to cover the focal distance where most pictures will be taken, then upgrade your equipment as you're able.
My current lens kit includes the Canon 24-70 f2.8 and the Canon 70-200 f2.8.
Camera Bag: A good camera bag is worth its weight in gold. I've had my Think Tank Photo bag for more than ten years now. It receives everyday use and is still in fantastic shape, but at the very least, get yourself a padded bag that can hold your camera, lenses, batteries and chargers.
Memory Cards: As a livestock photographer, the data on your memory card is the fruit of your labor. Take care of it by using high-quality cards. We use SanDisk Extreme Pro memory cards. If I can, I like to have a card that will allow me to shoot all day on one card.
Laptop Computer: Livestock photographers travel a lot. Having a good laptop with a large screen will help you keep your workflow moving, even when you're on the road. At one point, I travelled so much that I bought a pelican case for my 27" iMac to make my editing life easier. Obviously, we're a Mac family, so when it comes to computers, we recommend them exclusively.
Hard Drives: Using your computer's hard drive to store the data from your shoot is risky and slows your computer down. Using external hard drives to organize and backup your data is crucial if you'll be taking many photos or videos at all. We recommend G-Technology drives and keeping a duplicate of them! Your workload and workflow will determine how many drives you need and of what size.
Editing Software: Yes, you CAN use whatever software your computer came with or other free/cheap software you can get your hands on, but if I were you I would definitely subscribe to Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan for $10/mo.
Gloves: I can't overstate the importance of being comfortable at work. I keep my cold weather gear in the truck from September through April just in case. Finding a pair of gloves that allow your fingers to operate your equipment while keeping your hands warm is a real challenge. I like these paired with cotton roping gloves on extremely cold days. Or just some fingerless gloves for your average chilly day.
MicroFiber Lens Cloths: A must have for keeping your lens free from dust and dirt. I think the ones from Norwex are hands down the best I've used.
Dust Puffer: The big dust that accumulates on your camera and lens blows off easily with a puffer like this. Also, when dust gets into your camera body, you can use this to gently puff it out of the body by holding your camera with the lens opening toward the ground.
Sure, there are a million other little things in my camera bag, like spare chargers for my phone and extras of all the essentials, but these key items will cover everything you need to get up and running as a livestock photographer. Let me know what questions you have! E-mail [email protected] or hit me up on any of our social channels.
B.J. Eick is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker with a passion for animal agriculture. You can reach him here.
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