Photography Tips #6: Sheep and Showmanship

When I first got a bit more serious about equine and show photography, admittedly I brushed off the idea of photographing sheep and cattle showing. I put this mainly down to my ignorance of not exactly understanding the showing of these animals, and definitely not understanding how one sheep is better than other sheep that looks identical to me. Regardless, it is a lot more tricky than it seems. Especially with sheep.
Again, I had the pleasure on Wednesday to work with Storm Equine Photography, this time to focus on the show itself than that of the horse rings. Sticking with their equipment of a Nikon D4 and the option of a sigma 70-200mm lens and a Tamron 24-70mm lens, I was equipped for the general show ground as well as getting the close ups of the smaller animals. In this case, Sheep.

IMG_4915-32Different people will tell you different things when taking pictures of sheep. Mainly they want pictures of their winning sheep with their rosettes looking all proud and sheep like. You could compare it to showing in hand with horses with rosette shots with the aspects of having the animal standing square, so when horizontally flush to the camera the animal will look like it has two legs, one at the front, one at the back. Depending on the breed, you’ll either want the ears “tidy” – this being straight to the side, forward, or back. With the majority of medium to large breeds such as Texels and Bluefaced Leicesters, breeders are looking for ears forward in my experience. However, unlike horses, sheep are tricky and don’t respond well to wavy arms, interesting noises or the general waving and shenanigans to get their attention for them to move their ears forward.

The best advice I can give for this type of photography is ask the owner/breeder/handler what they want and go from there. Get down to the same level of the sheep and make sure you shoot a burst incase the sheep twitches.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

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