10 Tips to get the Best Photos on the Ranch

Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

Whether you’re taking pictures for hobby or a business, improving your technique is always rewarding. Cowgirl and photographer Ashley Rose Phillips has sought to take better pictures of everyday ranch life over the last several years, and today she owns and operates Rocking Lazy A Photography.

Phillips grew up drawing, painting, sculpting, and “just about anything I could try, but I always enjoyed taking photos ever since I was a little girl,” she said. “I became more involved in my own hobby when I was cowboying for the Diamond A [in Arizona] in the fall of 2013 when I couldn’t resist photographing all the beautiful things I’d see at work. It became addicting to me and I pursued it more over the last few years, investing in some knowledge, equipment, and my own techniques.”

Here are some of Phillip’s top tips for improving your own photography.

1) Plan your photo shoots for the best light.

Morning and late afternoon/evening provide the most favorable light for stunning photos.

“Avoid taking photos at mid day,” said Phillips. “I find the sun to be too intense on a clear day, and the images turn out with a washed out look to them.”

The rule of thumb is to keep your light source (in the case of outside ranch photos, this would be the sun) to the photographer’s back. But, don’t be afraid to break this rule.

“I like to aim for uniqueness so when the sun is rising or setting, I will sometimes have the sun behind or in front of my subject to get a silhouette appearance that adds natural color to my image,” said Phillips.

2) Go for the action shot.

“Powerful movement is key. Take the photo that has an interesting movement in it, the one with that cowboy spurring his horse to get up fast, as the dust comes billowing up,” said Phillips.

3) Experiment with angles.

“Don’t just stand in the center, point and shoot,” said Phillips. “Squat down and take the photo from ground level. [This perspective makes] a simple shot of a horse walking look epic and puts a dramatic effect on the rider sitting tall.

4) Exercise your trigger finger and fill your memory card every time you’re around ranch work.

“Take a million more images than what you think you need,” said Phillips.

Each image captures just a split-second of the action, and you never know which one is going to be the best. If you take a lot of pictures, you’ll up your percentage of great shots.

5) Know your subjects.

“When I’m taking photos of any action shot with cattle and/or horses, predicting the next move makes it much easier to get that great shot,” said Phillips. “And if you can watch the rider too, big bonus! Start by learning how to watch one, and add more moving subjects the more comfortable you get.”

Remember to watch out for things that aren’t supposed to happen in a great image as well. Is that horses mouth supposed to be gaped? Did that loop catch anything? Is there a fence held up with snow fence in the back ground even though it’s July?

These are all questions Phillips asks herself while shooting ranch action. Aim to create images that capture the cowboys, horses, and background in a flattering moment.

6) Don’t get hung up on color versus black and white.

“Take both!” recommends Phillips. “Each have their own beauty and you have to find your own favorite style, then try to perfect it.

7) Don’t get in the way.

When on a ranch, oftentimes the best vantage point for taking photos is right in the way of where the cattle are coming up the alley or the cavvy is coming into the corral.

“You don’t want the cowboss yelling at you,” said Phillips.

With some general ranch knowledge and creativity, a photographer can always find a suitable place to take pictures. When in doubt, just ask whomever is in charge if you’re in the way.

8) Eliminate the clutter in your image.

“Too many fences, and the chaos of vehicles and people everywhere takes away from that image of the guy working the gate as they knock pairs apart,” cautions Phillips. “Eliminate all the distractions and it will clean up your image.”

Oftentimes, simply moving a few feet in either direction will eliminate background clutter from your image.

9) The camera that’s with you is the best one.

“Unless pursuing a long life in a photography business, I don’t see a need spending too much on a camera,” said Phillips. “I think phone photos are awesome. If you’d like to sell your photos, try to use an actual camera for higher quality, but for mainly personal use, the camera on you is your best one and that is your phone.”

10) Most of all, find your own style.

“Once you do, perfecting it becomes much easier,” said Phillips.

To see more of Phillips’ work, visit her website at www.rockinglazyaphotography.smugmug.com or check out her Facebook page, “Rocking Lazy A Photography.”  She is also featured on Cavvy Savvy’s Instagram this week. Take a look at more great photos there.


Posted in: Featured, Ranch Life

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....

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