Some men prefer boobs and others legs.  The debate has gone on since the stone ages.  Modern photography can enhance either choice – or both. But when it comes to photo enhancement in dairy cattle, technological advances in the past 15 years have really ramped up the discussion.  Through programs like Adobe Photoshop graphic designers can pretty much create anything you want. Where do you draw the line?  What is acceptable?  What is not?

Changing Backgrounds

First let’s take a look at what’s possible.  The ability to remove a background has been many breeders dream. Now they can picture their cow any time of year when the cow is at her best and without any bad weather or safety issues.

The right background can be an art form to do  effectively.  Let’s look at how different backgrounds can change how a cow looks.  The picture below is the photographer’s final image sent to the breeder after picturing inside the barn (Please note: cow used will remain nameless since it is irrelevant to this discussion and that in no way was the picture of the cow herself ever touched or altered).

VG 2yr Old Base Background

 

Very nice picture of an outstanding VG-2yr old.  But let’s take a look at how changing the background can affect the look of the picture.

Let’s say we wanted to make the cow look taller.  Well then we would lower the horizon on this image.

Lower Background

 

Notice how the cow looks taller, and also that it does not accentuate the fact that she is a little shallow in the fore rib.

Now let’s say we wanted her to look like a show winner.  We could simply place the cow at one of the major shows backgrounds.

Royal Background

 

And then there is the ever-so-trendy, stick them in front of a mountain scene.

Mountain Background

 

All effects have their merits and can greatly enhance the image of the cow.

Composite Image

Shine vs. No Shine

Another effect that has become extremely popular in recent years is the ability to enhance the colour saturation and add “shine” to the images.  Here are the exact same 2 pictures with just the saturation and the colour range enhanced.

Notice how the enhanced picture on the right jumps out at you with more clarity and detail and her udder shows much greater veination.  The cow herself was not altered in anyway, but enhancing the tonal range that is already in the image, you are able to make sure all the details that make that cow great show up.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Ultimately it comes down to the ethics of the designer or photographer who is working with the image.  My position has always been, as long as the cow herself has not been altered then it’s okay.  Please understand in all these images the conformation of the cow has not been changed in any way. That means changing backgrounds and enhancing shine are where we draw the line.  In an era where social media and breeders chat is easy and instantaneous, having an image of a cow that the cow cannot live up to does not do anyone any good.    That means you need to work with the greatest photographer, not the one that is great in Photoshop, but rather that one that understands how to get the best possible original image.

What are your thoughts?  Please share in comments box below.

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