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Gen Z Aggie: Here are some photography tips and strategies, so you can capture agriculture at its best.

Elizabeth Hodges, Staff Writer

July 25, 2023

3 Min Read
town road sign with farmland and barn in background
FOLLOWING THE RULES: Using the rule of thirds allows your subject to stand out. Here is an example of one photo that lines up well on the grid lines. Photos by Elizabeth Hodges

As an alumnus of the Nemaha County 4-H program, this time of the year always reminds me of fair season. Even though I can’t enter hogs or static exhibits in 4-H anymore, I can still put my hobbies to good use in open class.

Being an ag communications major, I have learned to love photography and have spent the past couple of years improving my photography skills. But a fancy camera isn’t needed to get great shots.

Simply picking up your smartphone and having a keen eye can give you purple ribbon photos. Even when I am out on the road collecting stories, I take photos with my smartphone and my camera. I sometimes elect to use my smartphone photos over my camera photos.

So here are my top six tips, from experience, on how to capture the best photos using your smartphone:

  1. Use grid lines. In your phone’s settings, click on camera and you will find a toggle for grid lines that will separate your photo into nine different boxes. These are crucial to make sure your photo is balanced.

  2. Rule of thirds. In nearly every photography textbook, you will find the rule of thirds as a technique to uphold. The rule of thirds is when the subject of your photo is in one-third of the photo, leaving the other two-thirds open. This is where grid lines are handy to physically see where your subject lines up.

  3. Don’t zoom. Personally, this was a hard habit to kick. It is instinct to want to zoom in on subjects when shooting photos on your smartphone. But when you zoom in, you are reducing the resolution of your photo. At last year’s Husker Harvest Days, where I was an intern, I was given wise words of wisdom on breaking this habit. Jenni Latzke, Kansas Farmer editor, told me to “zoom with my feet” when I want to get closer to the subject.

  4. Fix the exposure. By a simple touch on your phone screen, you can correct your exposure. When you touch your subject on your phone, you are telling your camera that you need to correct the lighting you are seeing. This can make all the difference in enhancing the quality of your photo.

  5. Pay attention to the time of day. It is no secret that taking photos in the middle of the day will bring too much light into your phone’s camera and leave it overexposed. My favorite time of day to capture some cool farm photos is during the “golden hour.” This happens an hour after sunrise and, then again, an hour before sunset.

  6. Keep it simple. Having too many subjects in the frame can make the photo too busy. A simple photo of a cow in a pasture can be more appealing than a ton of moving parts. Instead of adding more subjects into your frame, consider taking the photo at different angles or using your feet to zoom in on a unique part of your subject.

Now that you have the top six tips on taking your photos to the next level, shoot away this harvest season.

Personally, I love taking photos of the sunset ducking behind the cornfields of Nebraska, or Berkshire pigs on my family’s farm munching away at feeding time. I would love to see your great photos of agriculture across the Midwest through your lens.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Hodges

Staff Writer, Farm Progress

Growing up on a third-generation purebred Berkshire hog operation, Elizabeth Hodges of Julian, Neb., credits her farm background as showing her what it takes to be involved in the ag industry. She began her journalism career while in high school, reporting on producer progress for the Midwest Messenger newspaper.

While a student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she became a Husker Harvest Days intern at Nebraska Farmer in 2022. The next year, she was hired full time as a staff writer for Farm Progress. She plans to graduate in 2024 with a double major in ag and environmental sciences communications, as well as animal science.

Being on the 2022 Meat Judging team at UNL led her to be on the 2023 Livestock Judging team, where she saw all aspects of the livestock industry. She is also in Block and Bridle and has held different leadership positions within the club.

Hodges’ father, Michael, raises hogs, and her mother, Christy, is an ag education teacher and FFA advisor at Johnson County Central. Hodges is the oldest sibling of four.

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