Someone asked me recently what the biggest mistake I ever made as a livestock photographer was. I assume they expected me to answer with a hilarious story about cattle handling gone wrong, and while I have made more than a few of those mistakes, picture pen wrecks weren't even close to the first thing on my mind.
The biggest mistake I ever made was believing that my job was to make animals look ideal in their photograph. Since every animal is not ideal, I taught myself to become an exceptional editor. In fact, I'd put my editing skills up against anyone in the industry. If you can do it to a photo, I've done it, and even better (or worse) I know how to hide it from you.
Luckily for me, I had the good fortune of meeting some exceptional cattlemen with some exceptional livestock that helped me learn to appreciate my role as a photographer in a new light. I learned that my job was not to make every animal look perfect, but to document the positive qualities I saw in each animal and to represent those animals and the people who owned them in the best light possible.
A good stockman can tell good from bad. A great stockman appreciates the work it takes just to get a live animal to sale day, and they appreciate that animal for whatever it really is, whether they're weighing 'em up, or worth their weight in gold.
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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.
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