How Do You Find the Right Pose for Each Animal?

When an animal comes into the picture pen, you literally have seconds to decide how you would want to see that animal posed in order to create the best image. Believe it or not, it’s not done in Photoshop.

Angles and structure produce the outline of an animal in its photograph, which makes understanding these angles crucial to being able to take your photographs to the next level. To be successful posing animals of different shapes and sizes, you need to build in your brain an understanding of the cause and effect relationships created by moving an animal’s leg. This is the key to getting great poses.

Here are a few tips to help you find the right pose every time.

1. Use the lay of the land. The picture pen discussed earlier (in particular the lay of the ground) is also a huge key to getting cattle posed correctly. It takes an exceptional animal to look good going downhill. Even then, it's unlikely you'd want to take it's picture that way. 

2. Understand how to change the pose for each structural style. The right pose is different for every individual animal.

• Animals with round hips (low pin sets) can be improved by extending their picture side hind leg farther and setting a longer stager on their hind legs. 

• There is nothing you can do to fix a high tailhead, but don’t accentuate it by doing number following the tip immediately above. Set animals with a high tailhead with a little shorter stager, a little tighter from front to rear. 

• Setting animals with less body a little shorter in their stance can help them appear to be fuller. Additionally, watching the off side hind leg position in animals that need more flank can add more depth by filling in the gap on the off side of the photo. 

• If you run into animals that are a little straight, they tend to take great photos, if they are a lot straight, they tend to be incredibly difficult to get right. I find being just a little more in front of or behind these animals in my positioning than usual will assist this matter. 

• Animals with extreme set to their hind leg can sometimes look more attractive when you really extend the pose and allow them to have a straighter, more attractive line from the back of their pastern to their tailhead. 

3. Pictures are two dimensional, cattle are three dimensional. It takes an extremely stout animal to look extremely stout in a photograph, especially from the front or rear. Oftentimes it seems the more dimension you try to show, the more dimension you tend to loose. If you want to take 3/4 shots, I find they look better from almost the clear front and almost the clear back of the animal unless the animal is just extremely wide and stout.  It takes some crazy foot positioning to get some animals to look impressive from off-angles. It might not always feel right, but if it looks right through the lens, it's right. 

4. Chimp.  After you get the shot, use your digital screen to know you got the shot. Check the camera, make sure you're in love, then try for another pose if you need it. 

The pose is your chance to correct flaws in the cattle.  Take the time to get the picture you need in the picture pen and don't rely on Photoshop to do your work for you. It will make you a better photographer and you'll sleep better at night too. 

If you can think of any other common flaws that can be changed by posing, add them to the comments below or hit us up on social! To learn everything I know about posing, check out our course called Take Command of the Picture Pen, coming this 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. 

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