You just picked the perfect vegetable. It looks scrumptious and you grew it all yourself! Wanting to show it off you rush to take a photo of it for your social media account not realizing that:
a) You are posing it on the compost heap.
b) Little Joseph, instead of infusing the vegetable with adorable child energy, is picking his nose in the background.
c) The vegetable is being propped up by the biggest thistle you have ever seen (seriously, this weed needs its own nickname, Weedzilla!)
d) The lighting looks awful; but at least it distracts from the fact that Mr. Whiskers is licking his posterior in the left corner.
Why does this happen time and time again? What do all those farm blogs know that you don’t know? Do they really have perfect weed free fields and only smiling well behaved children and manicured pets? Why do their vegetables look glowing and fresh while yours look shriveled and pathetic?
Let me tell you a secret. They don’t have perfect farms devoid of weeds. Nobody with a life and family has a perfect farm. I have only seen one totally weed free field in my life. It was a wheat field; the 80 yr old farmer had walked the field almost every day for over 50 years removing every single weed by hand. When I met him, there were no weed seeds left to sprout in the field. He just had to patrol the edges of the field where weeds came in from the neighbors. I have not seen this before or since. If this is you, you are a shining sword against all weeds. If you are a normal farmer, you have weeds and can congratulate yourself for providing a biodiverse environment for pollinators and other wildlife.
So if everyone has weeds what do the grower bloggers and YouTubers have that you don’t?
They have the knowledge of how to take a great photograph or video. You don’t have be a photographer to learn this skill! Anyone can improve their photo taking skills with a few tips. Here are a few reasons you should invest a little time to learn how to take great photos.
Four reasons you need to know how to take gorgeous farm photos
- Promoting yourself online. When people visit your website, blog or Facebook page online they have nothing to judge you on but your images and words. They don’t know you or your farm. So when they see a couple of mangy carrots near a pile of manure it doesn’t impress them much. It may even give them the wrong idea about your operation.
- Encouraging others to share your images online. Beautiful photos beg to be shared and held up as an example. Sharing will increase your farm’s advertising and visibility.
- Helping to inspire others. Powerful scenes of rural life bring beauty to the internet and encourage others to take up a rural lifestyle. There is enough ugliness on the internet without adding to it.
- Feeling a sense of pride in your farm. Choosing to document the beauty in your farm will help infuse you with a healthy feeling of pride in your operation.
Tips for taking great photos
Be aware of your surroundings before taking a shot.
Is the manure pile in the background? Can you see Aunt June’s rusty car collection in the distance? Are your cats reenacting the scene from fight club by the cabbage patch? Is your bull, Big Bully, taking a restroom break behind the world’s largest pumpkin? Does your significant other, proudly holding their huge tomatoes, have an unfortunately placed hole in their blue jeans?
It is natural to be so enthused about that perfect yellow zucchini that you focus exclusively on it and not on its surroundings. It is only when you preview your photos later that you notice that your lovely vegetable is eclipsed by a large pieces of rusty metal in the background. Result: the perfect zucchini looks like an afterthought not the star.
Solution: With just a few seconds you can pose your zucchini in an area devoid of ugliness. Often it is just adjusting the camera angle to avoid distracting elements. Try different angles and distances. It is worth a little time to shoot in the opposite direction of the decaying vehicles and shoo away the disgruntled cats.
- Make your subject the focus of your shot. Decide what you want to focus on. Is it that beautiful apple, the tree as a whole, the adorable child holding the apple, the overall picture of peaceful tranquility? Too far away and nobody will know that the wholesome apple is the focus of the image. Get up close and personal with your subject. Don’t take a photo from across the yard; stick your camera or phone right up to your topic to see it eye to eye. Don’t be afraid to use your zoom if needed.
- Tell a story. Make us understand what is going on in this photograph. Are you proud of this harvest, happy to be standing in a field of sunflowers, bemused by your chicken’s antics, sweating from digging up a field of potatoes? Photographs that tell a story are more interesting than those of beautiful subjects standing around being bored. It is easy to hire a model, it is hard to build a barn. Tell your story!
- Check the light. When learning to take photos the best light is a soft indirect light. Harsh midday sun will cast sharp shadows that make perfect shots more difficult. Shooting at high noon may sound fun in a old Western sort of way but it will wash out colors and makes subject starker and less attractive. Place or pose subjects in shade for better results or take pictures on an overcast day.
- Be original. Can you balance that tomato on your head? Are your dogs trained to juggle carrots (please get a video of that for us)? Try to think of an imaginative way to take that shot.
- Use emotion in your photo. Can you capture the pride of a bountiful harvest, the despair of a impossible weeding job, the fun of blueberry picking, the wonder of a child with her first carrot, or the happiness of a heifer on a perfect spring day? Try to show what growing and ranching mean to you. Don’t be afraid to be dramatic or silly if that is who you are; perfect and smooth is totally overrated.
- Check your photos after taking them. The easiest time to take a second round of photographs is after the first ones! A few minutes to review your shots may reveal problems such as the rusty rake that looks like it clawed its way out of your prize potato’s middle, the old hen with one tail feather shooting you the poultry equivalent of the evil eye for disturbing her scratching, or a weird eerie shadow from you hanging over your shot. You want wholesome farm photos not something out of Children of the Corn. By taking a minute to check previous photos, you have time to retake the photo easily.
- Take extra shots. Digital photos make taking more than one picture easy. Give yourself multiple options and angles in order to pick the best shot later.
With a little effort on your part you can create lively interesting photos that make looking at your website, blog or other social media site a pleasure not a pain.
By Susan M Fluegel, PhD