Welcome to my article about chicken photography. I'm going to attempt to explain some basic methods of photography and setting up shots. I'm afraid there won't be much on camera settings in here, as I'm useless at that.
A note: There are no hard-and-fast rules for photography. I encourage you to play around with everything mentioned here and more. These are just some ideas to get you going.
Table of Contents
1. Using Weather to Your Advantage
2. The Background is Key
3. Flowers are In
4. Matchmaking- Which Props to Use, if Any
5. Angle Tangle
6. What to do With The Uncooperative Chicken
7. Critiques and Examples
Another note---I have broken every "rule" mentioned here, and still gotten some pretty fair shots. Don't be afraid to experiment.
1. Using Weather to Your Advantage
Here's a breakdown on the pros and cons of several types of weather.
Just after rain
Pros: Beautiful shimmer on everything, chickens usually don't dust bathe in wet soil so they almost stay clean, usually no strong sunlight so no distracting shadows.
Cons: they might not be as interested in posing if they need to get their energy out after staying in the coop, The poor photographer has to get down on the wet grass for really good pictures. If you have a fancy feathered breed they look really bad when wet.
Pros: Sometimes you might be able to get some nice shots if it is misting, but it is bad for your camera.... Unless you have a nice cheap one.
Cons: You, the camera, and the chickens will all be wet. Very wet. Soaked, actually.
Pros: snow can be a very pretty glittery background, and chickens often pose well for a few seconds before taking off to the coop, giving you time to snap a few shots.
Cons: this is a bad option for white chickens, and some breeds might be cold sensitive and not like the snow. Also bad for the camera.
Pros: very hospitable for the photographer to get down onto the grass as it is dry, the best weather to photograph fancy feather\crested breeds. Good for the camera.
Cons: It can be hot, which will wear out the photographer's patience, and the chickens will be more inclined to dustbathe. If it's too sunny it will wreak havoc on your brightness and colour in the finished photo.
Just before a storm
Pros: Beautiful clouds, the background\sky is at it's finest right now, if it is hot, the weather usually cools down.
Cons: It can start to rain without warning, and it can be humid, which is also bad for some types of cameras. Sometimes too overcast for dramatic lighting.
Pros: No harsh sunlight to make distracting shadows, not super bright so the colors stay true.
Cons: Not super interesting in the lighting department.
Pros: Nothing can beat a silhouetted chicken with a beautiful sunset behind it.
Cons: Chickens go to roost that time and a sleepy chicken usually does not make a good picture, slight risk of predators, harder to keep shots from being blurry
2. The Background is Key
The mistakes I see the most in photography, have to do with background. No matter how pretty your chicken, nice the weather, how good of angle you have, you still can't have a good picture without a good background. *Note- if you get the background to blur, you can get away with some things.*
Here's how to make your pictures shine.
1. Try to have minimal dirt- brown is not a very attractive color, it will instantly degrade your entire picture.
2. No Poop- 'Nuff said.
3. Try and match the background to the chicken- covered in detail in the 4th chapter.
4. No hay, or hay in moderation. It really doesn't stand out well in most shots, but there are exceptions. If tied in correctly with lighting and background it can still be a prizewinner.
5. Grass is best, but leaves and pine needles also make really good pictures. Wildflowers are a very good background.
6. If you need a good background but don't have one, try looking up from underneath the chicken to the sky.
7. No pictures in the coop- It is pretty much always dark and there is poop everywhere too.
8. No other chickens in the background that are not relevant to the picture- especially parts of a chicken, such as tails.
9. No pictures of molting chickens. Mostly, It's the "first molt" or the awkward stage; when the chick is losing it's down.
10. No trash, garbage cans, etc in your picture.
11. And finally.... No chicken wire\hardware cloth. There is no way you can make this look good. It is the #1 common problem I see in otherwise great chicken pictures.
Example of bad picture:
Example of good picture:
See the difference?
Some of the errors in the top picture are: Excessive dirt, off-centre, other chicken in back, cluttery background, and scruffy feathers.
The bottom one has: Subject in focus, background blurred, and good feather condition.
3. Flowers are in
If you are trying to take baby chick pictures, flowers are the way to go every time. Older chickens look really good with flowers too; especially if the flowers coordinate with the chicken's colour. They are, however, much harder to pose in the flowers.
What kind to use
Fake flowers will do if you have to, but live ones are much better. Wildflowers are exceptionally beautiful; they will instantly make any picture more bright and cheery. Still, any kind that you can get with a good background behind them will do. See the next chapter for examples.
4. Matchmaking, Which Props to use, if any
Choosing props could possibly be the part with the most choices in the whole of chicken photography. An option for chicks (besides flowers) would be to put them in an old dolly house, or a basket with flowers would be just perfect. Bubbles (see below) happens to look his best with red props behind him.
This one's a little plain, but it's still a cute shot.
Again, if you have chicks, flowers are a really safe bet. There is something about an adorable baby chick snuggled up to some flowers that is just priceless. CherriesBrood has lots of amazing photos of chicks (see below) that are a perfect example of how to take baby chick pictures.
*Start of CherriesBrood's photos*
*End of CherriesBrood's photos*
If you are taking shots simply to focus on the chick and are not concerned about props, a simple towel is enough.
More chick and flower shots:
5. Angle tangle
Angles is a really important aspect to all photography, 'cos a human perspective just don't cut it if you want a prizewinner. Most of the time, squatting down and putting the camera down low is good enough if you are in a heavy poop zone.
Here's some pictures that show the difference a simple change in posture does....
Shooting from underneath the chicken can make some pretty pictures too, but as long as you don't shoot while standing it will be much improved.
6. What to do With the Uncooperative Chicken
This section could almost be described in 6 words: Corn is a photographer's best friend.
Of course, it's not all that, waiting to get the right moment is important too. I got most of my best pictures by chance; free-ranging is excellent for getting good pictures. If they have not been let out for a while they will probably be more interested in eating grass and bugs, but after a few hours they will be calmed down.
7. Critiques and examples
Here I'll critique some pictures I took to show you some mistakes and how to avoid them.
The dirty beak really detracts from the quality of this image. The background has a lot of interest with the flowers and the vibrant red coop. The picture setup makes you have to look twice to understand (what I was doing was holding him on my hand) and the cinder block and boot scrusher are not really pretty. The tree in the background is nice though.
Setting the photo up according to the rule of thirds instead of placing the bird in the centre would have made a large improvement.
This one has a very strong colour with nice action provided by the chicken being on the diagonal line. Again, the dirty beak is bad. Another problem is the angle... Not really a great one, but it is okay if used in moderation. The best aspect to this one is all that green gras.
All in all, it's a cute shot but not a prizewinner.
The biggest flaws here are that its beak has a bit too much blur for my liking, and it is not set up according to the rule of thirds. I do like the blue background, but I might be a smidge biased.
This one is okay but there are a few things that could be fixed, like that brown blade of grass that looks like it's almost touching Jace's beak. The tone of the grass could be a little brighter too.
The main thing here is that Jace blends in with the background too much. Fortunately, the background is bright enough that she's not completely lost. The other nagging problem is the composition; if I had that moment frozen in time I would have zoomed out a tad so her legs weren't cut off and I would have moved the green leaves in front out of the way.
Here's a good example of an exception to the rule of thirds. In my opinion, this looks much better centred than it would lined up on either of the vertical lines.
This one is the type that makes a great keepsake. it captures her personality perfectly. Background isn't great though, and the lighting would be better if it came from the side.
Again, this one would be better if the background had a bit more interest instead of just green.
I really like the angle on this one, and the red coop makes a really nice prop.
This picture adds interest by showing the coop in the corner. Jace is in a funny position though, bringing her head towards the camera a tad would have made it more proportional.
An end note: These are my photos; so I'm not the best judge. If you see something you don't like but I didn't cover let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.
How to Take Your Chicken Photography to a Whole New Level
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