Say “Cluck”! A Beginner’s Guide to Photographing Chickens

We all enjoy the fun and frolicking of our flocks, and the desire to capture their beauty (or antics) through photography to share with others is part of ownership!

In order to do our girls justice from behind the camera lens, there are a few things to consider when setting up your shot.

Lighting – You’ll never get a good picture if you have bad lighting!

  • Early morning or late evening are often the best times for photography – the “golden hour” after sunrise or before sunset provides enough light for quality shots, without the harsh shadows of a high-noon sun!
  • If you can’t get out during that “golden hour”, then opt for areas of bright shade – a spot where the subject is in the shade, but there is enough open light around to keep your girls from turning in to dark areas on the photo – especially with the darker colored breeds.
  • Try not to use the built-in flash on your camera – it can often create harsh shadows and make your subject look flat.  If you have a nicer DSLR, try getting to know your camera’s various shooting modes to find one that helps you capture the natural light available without the use of flash.

Background – Clear the clutter!

  • This rule helps the viewer’s eye go right to the subject – and exactly what you want them to see.
  • Try to compose your shot to avoid things like the car parked in the driveway, unoccupied lawn furniture, or the lawn mower parked by the shed.
  • Avoid “mergers” – everyone has seen one of those photos where it looks like the subject has a random tree limb growing out of their head.  In the case of your chickens, watch out for a fence-post behind the bird, or worse, having two birds lined up so that it appears you own a two-headed chicken!
Zooming in, or getting just a bit closer, to the chick eliminates the building in the back corner of the photo, reducing visual clutter and increasing the focus on the cuteness of the chick! Creative cropping, as shown in this example, can be used as well, however any time you can “get it right” in the camera reduces the amount of fixing things on your computer.

Rules of Composition – Frame your shot!

  • Fill your Shot: fill the frame of the camera up with your subject, unless the background helps tell the story.
  • Change your angle: Seeing as chickens are fairly short in stature, get down on your knees – or even flat on your belly in the grass – to get a different perspective! Photos taken from your feet might make their shape look awkward too, so down on their level may result in a more natural looking bird.
  • Rule of Thirds – aka Avoid the Center:  Don’t put your subject dead center in every photo. It can lead to boring, repetitive photos. Imagine a grid in your viewfinder (you might even be able to turn one on in your camera’s settings) and place your subjects on those lines.  This trick can help create movement or visual interest in the subject.
  • Allow Room for Movement: If your subject is on the move – and what chicken isn’t – then allow “room” in the photo for the bird to move in to.  For example, if your girl is running to the right, frame her in the left side of the photo with space to her to run in to, rather than catching her running off the right side of the image.  Your viewer’s eye will thank you!
Changing your angle from slightly above to down in the grass can give a whole new perspective on your birds!
Changing your angle from slightly above to down in the grass can give a whole new perspective on your birds!

These are just a few quick tips that hint at the photographic possibilities with your flock. Give them a whirl, and enjoy the fun and creative memories you capture.  And remember, no matter what camera you use – whether it is your smartphone or a high end digital SLR – your composition can make or break the image you capture!