Recently I had a conversation with a dairy cattle photographer that got me thinking about the state of dairy cattle marketing and the effect it has on the marketplace. For regular readers of The Bullvine our very publicly expressed positions on photo ethics and dairy cattle photography are very clear. (Read more: No Cow Is Perfect – Not Even in Pictures and Dairy Cattle Marketing Ethics – Do they exist?) The points made by this photographer encouraged me to think further about our approach. “Have we tarred all photographers with the same brush?”
There is no question that many good photographers have been tarred with the same brush as those who have a lower level of ethics. One of the effects that has happened from this is that many breeders no longer trust the images they see. Hence why we introduced the Dairy Cattle Marketer’s Code of Conduct (Read more: Introducing the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct and Dairy Cattle Photography Overexposed)
This photographer I was speaking with pointed out to me that, since we have “brought this to light”, they cannot even set foot on a farm without hearing some sort of negative comment toward photographers or off-handed jabs about Photoshop. The sad part is that was not my intent at all. Certainly not for this photographer and the team she works with, as I have the utmost respect for them.
Contrary to public perception, there are photographers that do amazing work and do so ethically. There is no question that photography is an art form. Sure there is a science to it, but it is also a finely honed craft. Especially dairy cattle livestock photography. I dare anyone to just pick up the camera walk into the barn and expect that they can nail a great shot. Getting the composition correct isn’t easy. That one aspect really differentiates the talented ones from the average ones.
Another aspect that I have seen that really makes a difference between those photographers whose work I trust and those that I have some reservations about is their use of light. Lighting is probably the most important aspect that I think many photographers have gotten lazy about since the introduction of Photoshop. There are some that would rather edit or adjust during postproduction rather than take the time to get the shot correct in the first place. With the introduction of digital photography, many photographers are now just taking the pictures of the animals in the barn and then cropping them out, adjusting them and putting them on a new background. That is why I love to see videos such as this one below from Cybil Fisher and how they make sure they get the lighting correct so that they don’t have to do so much post production adjusting.
While Cybil and her amazing team do adjust tails, toplines and backgrounds, that is all they do. By my standards this is acceptable. They do exceptional work. Some of the greatest shots over the past few years have been done by these talented women. One of the reasons they do nail the shot so often, is that they take the time to respect the craft. They make sure they get the composition correct. They take the time to make sure they get the lighting correct. They do this before they snap the shot, not after. While for some this may sound like a little thing, for me it is a big thing. Sure it would be just as “easy” to edit afterwards. But in fact it’s not. If you don’t nail the shot both in composition and in lighting, there is no ethical postproduction that is acceptable when marketing dairy cattle genetics. Sure it works for super models, but we are not purchasing the genetics from these super models we are purchasing the clothes they wear (FYI Did you know that Gisele Bundchen made $45 million last year? Maybe we should purchase her genetics)
The Bullvine Bottom Line
There is no doubt that we, as an industry, need to clean up our act and improve public perception. We also need to make sure that we don’t tar all photographers with the same brush. That is why I encourage those photographers who don’t want to be tarred with that brush to call us and let’s talk about the benefits of the Dairy Cattle Marketer’s Code of Conduct.
To get a copy of the Dairy Marketing Code of Conduct please click here.
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