For those of you who are cattle producers, a great picture pen can make an incredible difference, not only in the quality of your images, but also in the ease, or difficulty, of handling your cattle on picture day. Here are a few of the most common mistakes I've seen from a few hundred picture pens.
1. The pen isn't the right size. The right size for your picture pen depends on the size of the cattle you're picturing and how they handle. If you're taking calf pictures, you don't need as big of a pen as you do when you're taking cow pictures. If you anticipate the cattle handling light, a bigger pen will allow the crew to get off the cattle and give them more room to breathe.
2. The fencing is dangerous for people or animals. The worst thing that can happen on picture day is for a person to get hurt. The next worst thing is for your favorite animal to become injured. Good fencing in the picture pen should keep cattle in, but be safe for people to get out, and get out FAST. Sturdy steel fences, like continuous fence or heavy duty corral panels make a great picture pen. Lots of other options work, but just because they don't bother that single strand of hot wire when you're grazing doesn't mean they'll stay in it on picture day.
3. You can't open the gate fast enough. Sometimes the best place for a cow to go is OUT. It's important that you don't have to fiddle with the gate to get it open and let an animal that might harm itself, or a person, out of the picture pen in a hurry.
4. There's not a logical flow for the animals. When your pen is setup correctly, it will account for the natural flow of the animals through that pen. This may include a waiting area before entering the pen and a collection area for cattle that have been photographed at the other end of the pen. Cattle will naturally move the long direction of the pen. Cattle will naturally move toward other cattle. Use these natural tendencies to setup a pen that will work well on picture day.
Leave a comment below, or keep the conversation going on our social channels. If you'd like to learn more, check out our course, Setting Up the Perfect Picture Pen when it releases in February!
B.J. Eick is the Founder of Learn Livestock, the Founder and C.E.O. of Herdmark Media, Inc., a writer, photographer, and filmmaker with a passion for animal agriculture. You can contact B.J. directly here.
Join our mailing list to receive weekly livestock photography tips delivered directly to your inbox. Take Better Photos. Make More Money.