Improve Your (Tractor) Photography

1937 John Deere Model A

1937 John Deere Model A

Clyde Higeons and his son Tim of Claremore, Oklahoma, did a great job of restoring and photographing their 1937 John Deere model A.

Each year, our sister magazine Farm & Ranch Living also produces the popular Old Iron Calendar. It features 48 lovingly restored tractors, and we count on our readers to provide before and after photos of their classic gems. Oddly enough, these dedicated mechanics tend to spend years restoring their tractors to show-room perfection—then about 30 seconds staging and shooting a picture. It’s relatively easy to take a good tractor photo, but not that easy.

So, to help make sure your tractors look their very best, we offer the following easy-to-master photo guidelines. Many of these hints also apply if you’re shooting a puppy, barn, mountain, flower or anything else in the great outdoors.


Don’t be afraid to be creative and experiment. We want you to have fun taking pictures of your pride and joy! Above all, don’t procrastinate. Follow the old saying: strike while the “iron” is hot!

Distance:  Fill in the major portion of the viewfinder with the tractor, making sure you haven’t cut off any part of the tractor (watch those exhaust stacks and wheels). Don’t stand too far away. We need sharp photos with good details.

Angle:  Try taking photos of the tractor at different angles. Which side or angle is the most interesting? You might want to try different heights, too.

Background:  Backgrounds can make or break your photos. Many times you can improve your photo by simply eliminating an unattractive or cluttered background. Try posing your tractor in front of an old barn, fencerow or open field. It will help the tractor stand out in the photo and look better in natural surroundings.

Lighting:  Good lighting is critical. Soft, early-morning or late-afternoon light works best to bring out colors and reduce harsh shadow. Position the tractor so you can shoot it with the sun at your back, being careful not to get your own shadow in the photo.

People:  Notice how people are dressed, their posture, facial expressions and what their clothes have printed on them. Do they add or detract from the photo? Sometimes people add scale and life. To be safe, shoot some photos with people and some without.

Blurred or out-of-focus photos:  We can’t publish soft, fuzzy or out-of-focus photos. Please don’t assume we might—we won’t. Turn off the tractor engine to eliminate blurring caused by vibration, then take time to focus, and gently press the shutter release.

If you have a restored tractor or know of a tractor that deserves a month of calendar fame, shoot some photos (include “before” or “during” shots if you have them), write a short description of the project and email them to our sister magazine, Farm & Ranch Living, at

Laura reppy December 10, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Hi there, I am looking for the 2014 Old iron calendar. I normally purchase one every year for my dad at Christmas, but this year I have been unable to find it at The country store website. Do you know where I can purchase the calendar?
Thank you,
Laura Reppy


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