Here is a great photo my husband took for me. He’s not a photographer, and this was taken with his cell phone camera. I consider it proof that anyone can snap a great photo.
Here is a great photo my husband took for me. He’s not a photographer, and this was taken with his cell phone camera. I consider it proof that anyone can snap a great photo.

Editor's note: The following column appears in the July 2015 issue of Dairy Herd Management.

Imagine you’re living in a city and working in a cube. The only thing you grow is a house plant, and your only animal interaction is with a cat. To take a break from staring at numbers and sales reports, you take a minute to scroll through Instagram. There, you see a photo of a calf and a kid, and you just can’t help but crack a smile. That night, when you swing past the grocery store to grab cream for your morning coffee, that photo pops back into your head, and you smile again.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, how important is it for you to share photos of your life on a farm? Your customers love to see what you do everyday, but taking good photos on the farm can be a challenge. To get you started, here are some quick tips to help you capture great shots.

1. The best camera is the one you have on you. While a fancy digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) can take great photos, it won’t get any shots if it’s in the house and you’re outside. Most of us have a cell phone, and most cell phones have pretty decent cameras on them these days. Don’t think you must use a fancy camera to take photos.

2. Know your camera’s limitations. While cell phone cameras can produce great photos, they are usually limited in dim light, and don’t have real “zoom” features. While you can still get great shots at dawn, or of wildlife out in your fields, it will take practice to determine your camera’s capabilities.

3. Take time to wipe off your lens. Professional photographers wouldn’t dream of going to a photo shoot without cleaning their lens, and they don’t have to worry about cow drool. If you’re using your cell phone camera, there’s a good chance there will be fingerprint smudges, milk or manure on your lens. Take a minute to make sure your camera lens is clean.

4. Flash may not always be your friend. While it may be tempting to snap a photo of your cows in the dark, using a flash may only turn their eyes into glowing zombie beacons. When you’re taking head-on photos of critters or humans, it’s probably best to skip the flash.

5. Try different angles. If you’re snapping a photo of a child, a calf or kitten, don’t just snap from your level – get down to theirs. If you’re feeling adventurous try some shots from ground level.

6. Play around with camera settings and modes. I find taking pictures of hungry calves can be a real challenge, because they move so quickly. However, if I switch my camera to “Sports” mode, I get a lot less blurry photos and end up with some real keepers. Try out the different options your camera has – you won’t break it!

7. You’re not wasting film so take lots of photos. The number of photos you take directly correlates with the number of chances of ending up with a great photo. You can always delete the extras later.

Carrie Mess farms in partnership with her husband Patrick and his parents on their 100-cow, 300-acre dairy farm near Lake Mills, Wis. She also speaks to agricultural organizations, empowering farmers to tell their own stories through social media.

“Dairy Carrie” can be reached via


Twitter: @DairyCarrie


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