After spending the day scouting acres of their farm, the family whose farm you’re shooting has graciously invited you to spend the night. That means the next morning, even though the sun may not yet be quite where you need it, you’ll get to appreciate the natural splendor first thing. A beautiful day of shooting agriculture photography is ahead.
Scouting the day before is absolutely necessary, Grapevine, Texas-based Tadd Myers says. “I tell my clients there’s no way you can just walk in and just show up at 6 a.m. that morning with no scout day and no preparation and even hope at all to get [the best possible] shot.” Preparation is everything for agriculture photography.
The specialty of agriculture photography usually includes elements common to landscape, social documentary, or still life photography, but the subject matter is what sets this specialty apart from the others. At Wonderful Machine, we understand agriculture photography to “illustrate the practice of cultivating, breeding, or harvesting plants and animals to provide food, wool, and other products.”
The people that you meet on assignment shooting agriculture photography — though not referenced in our definition — are in fact essential to it.
“It’s been my experience that farmers are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met and there’s not enough acknowledgment of what they do to feed and clothe the rest of us,” St. Louis, Missouri-based photographer Jennifer Silverberg says of the primary subjects of agriculture photography. She was not alone in this view.
“Some of the nicest and most genuine people I’ve met,” Tadd told us. “They will do anything for you. We’ve gotten lifts out into the middle of a cornfield so that we didn’t have to carry things in from the barn the next morning.”
“The biggest aspect is the people that we’re photographing,” Minneapolis, Minnesota-based photographer Chad Holder told us in an interview. When we spoke, he made a point of talking about people he’s met just as much as photography.
When you go to a farm and photograph these people, it’s helping others to understand that these farmers are so much more than that — they’re also veterinarians, they’re mechanics, they’re weather forecasters. They’ve got a mind for business and a heart that’s tied to family, community, and the earth.
Emphasis on the earth is vital to the agriculture business. These days the business is giving back to the earth on a large scale. Agriculture photography has been helping raise awareness about environmental change happening in parts of the world where farming and other agricultural practices are prominent.
This is so much the case, in fact, that in 2016 Vice published an article that discussed the importance of agriculture photography for that very reason. For the article, the author interviewed Sherri Dougherty, Photo Editor for the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO):
Working with good photographers really has its benefits. We don’t necessarily work with photographers specializing in agriculture. We work with photojournalists who need to understand the subject that they’re about to cover. Once they have that understanding, they’re able to present the story in a dynamic way through a variety of focal lengths, perspective, repetition; any number of the techniques that photographers use to bring attention to their subject.
One of the reasons that Sherri prefers to work with photojournalists is due to the candid nature of their photography. “We want to have a natural, unposed, and dynamic scene represented in imagery that tells a story or process,” she told Vice. However, some agriculture photographers already actively consider the natural aura of their images.
“I think that’s one of the reasons that my clients come to me. These images look real and they are real,” Jennifer said. “I’m not hiring models. I’m not glossing over the reality of it.”
As a general interest publication, Vice includes agriculture photography once in a while, but many publications regularly include agriculture photography. Successful Farming, Modern Farmer, and Progressive Farmer all consistently draw on agriculture photography for their online publications.
The brands that utilize agriculture photography for their products include notable farm equipment companies such as John Deere, Tractor Supply Co., and Toro. Family farm brands and other producers contract advertising assignments to photographers as well.
To get noticed by some of these clients, Tadd recommends good old-fashioned direct mail and email campaigns. For him, everyone gets added to the email list.
People that contact you about jobs, even if you don’t end up shooting it because of whatever reason — maybe someone else shoots it or there were budget issues or something else — but we always add them to the mailing list and from time to time we’ll get called back about other jobs.
Chad agrees with the old school approach, too, taking it one step further.
Every month I try to go out and meet or get my book in front of new people and even reconnect with old clients, too. Getting a face-to-face meeting is one of the best ways to connect with the clients that are out there.
If you’re with a brand or publication searching for agriculture photographers, check out our Find Photographers page! Or, if you’re a photographer in need of help connecting with clients, feel free to reach out via email or give us a call at 1 610 260 0200.