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Sale Preparation Part 2 - A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

By Tracy McMurphy

Many producers around the country may not have the time, number of cattle or resources to host their own production sale. However, consignment sales are a great tool for producers, both large and small, who want to market a few animals or feature their stock for a new and different audience, such as a sale at a stock show.  But making your consignment a success involves much more than signing up for the sale and showing up with your animal.  To ensure great exposure and the sale price you are looking for producers need to take charge of properly preparing and marketing their animals.  There are a few key steps that can take your consignment to the next level and make that sale commission worth while!

Today we’ll continue with part 2 of our series on preparing your cattle for a sale.  We’ll discuss the importance of great catalog photos and how to acheive the best results if you are taking photos yourself.

You Get What You Pay For

The photo in the sale catalog is the most powerful sales tool you have.  It is the first and strongest impression your animal will make on buyers and can trump even the most powerful pedigree.  The best option for great photos is to hire a professional livestock photographer.  They are specialists who know how to make your animals look their best.  Almost as importantly,  a photographer can then professionally process your images to ensure they print well in the catalog and look great. Again, this is an investment but is well worth the price.  You can find links to professionals in our Industry Directory.


Here is an example of a very high quality professional image. You should strive to have your animal set up correctly with good foot placement like this bull. This photo also has great sunlight, a simple background and no halter.

When this photo was taken this bull was on a halter. You can see how a professional can remove the halter and make it look very clean and natural.


Start with Groomed Cattle

No matter who takes your photos always make sure they look their best. Wash and groom your animals on picture day.  If you have halter broke cattle work hair, pull legs and the tailhead and make sure you use an ample amount of oil to make them look shiny and fresh.  See our previous article on grooming your cattle for sales for more information.

A Sunny Day is Key

If you would like to take your own photos there are a few rules that can help make your images more effective.  Choose a day with bright sunshine. Good, bright light is critical to bringing out the detail and vibrant color in your cattle. Weather can be unpredictable so try to plan your picture day well in front of your photo deadline.  That way you can reschedule if clouds or rain dampen picture day.  It is also best to take photos in the morning or afternoon.  At noon, when the sun is directly overhead, you get undesirable shadows so try to avoid that time period. When you shoot you want have the sun at your back so it lights up the whole side of the animal you are photographing and their shadow falls away from the side you are picturing.

Find a Simple Backdrop

Choose a photo spot that is open and has very little in the background.  Barns, fences, vehicles, etc will distract from your animal.  The less there is in the background the better. 

Set Up Your Animal

If your cattle are halter broke and can be set up you can picture them on the halter. Find a spot where your animal’s front end is slightly uphill and set the front feet even with each other.  Then set the back foot closest to the camera slightly back and the back foot on the other side slightly forward so you see all of both back legs. Make sure the animal is not stretched out and their tail is down. You also want their head up and ears forward. 

After you get your photo you MUST HAVE THE HALTER REMOVED by a professional.  Do not submit a photo of an animal with a halter on or tied to a fence or panel.  You can find professionals who will remove the halter and retouch the photo so all you focus on is your animal. This is also a service offered by our designers here at Red Angus World so contact us if you are interested.

If your cattle are not halter-broke build a long, rectangular picture pen.  Turn cattle in one at a time and work them slowly back and forth on the long sides of the pen.  The photographer should stand in the middle of the pen and have one handler on each end of the pen to push the animal back and forth. Try to get a photo with the animal’s head up, ears forward and legs set up as described above.  This requires a lot of patience and can be very frustrating.  But, try to get your animal as close to set up as possible. 

Give them Room to Breath

When you are taking your photos be sure to leave a good amount of space around the animal when you set up the shot. You don’t want to be zoomed in too closely because it will make it more difficult for the catalog designer to crop the photo to the size they need.  Don’t worry if you animal looks slightly farther away. Leaving that space in front and behind the animal will ensure they look even with all of the other lots in the catalog and that none of the animal gets cut off. 

Bigger is Better

Once your photos are taken do not reduce their size. Submit the full size image and let your sale manager and designer do the work of reducing the image size. If you reduce the image size and it then has to be blown up it will reduce the image quality. So send what comes right out of your camera.


Be sure to save your photos in at least two places so that if your computer or camera crash you aren’t left without those critical photos!


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