Preparing For Your Horse's Photo Session

When preparing for a photography session with your horse there are several things that you can do to ensure the sessions flows smoothly.

  1. Make sure the photographer has the same understanding of what you are looking for in your photos as you do.
  2. What do you plan on using the photographs for? The purpose of the photos can determine how the photography session flows as well as what types of photographs are focused on.
  3. It is important that the photographer knows how many horses will be in the photograph as well as the number of individuals that are going to be photographed. This can have an effect on where the shots are taken and how long the session will last. If the photographer knows this information ahead of time, this ensures everyone remains relaxed and comfortable and that all the shots are captured.
  4. To make certain your clothing compliments your horse's coloring, dress in solid colors that are free of logos or designs. If there are several individuals in the photo with the pet(s), plan ahead to ensure everyone is wearing complimentary colors.
  5. If you are an individual with a light colored complexion it is best to wear dark colors such as a dark tan, browns, grays, dark greens, dark blues, etc.
  6. For a darker completion wear lighter shades such as light tan, light brown, light greens, light blues, etc.
  7. If your horse has darker coloring, then wear clothing a few shades lighter, or if your horse is a lighter color, you want to wear clothing a few shades darker.
  8. Do not wear white unless you have a vest/jacket over the shirt.
  9. Depending on the type of session or the use of your photos your attire could be formal, relaxed, or every day.

Helping your horse look their best:

Have your horse(s) well groomed, clipped, and all tack clean. The halter, lead rope, and bridle should fit well and complement your horse's coloring as well as your clothing. If the tack is oiled ensure that it will not affect safe riding. Be sure to fly spray your horse and bring extra fly spray along with you.

Think about bringing an assistant to help hold your horse or to get the horse's attention. The assistant will be behind the camera and can do different things to ensure that the horse's ears are forward and the horse is looking in the direction needed for the shot.

Choosing a location:

Choose a location that is relaxing, that you and your horse are familiar with and are free of distractions and clutter. Areas to consider are barn doorways, trails, or a local riding park. If you are planning on riding shots, an outdoor arena has better lighting and provides a better background for your photos. For shots of your horse in a natural setting, a field pasture is best.

The best lighting for photographing outdoors is an hour before dawn till 11:30am and then from 3:00pm till an hour after dusk. The lighting between 11:30am and 3:00pm is extremely harsh and can cause deep shadows and make photos look washed out.

Make sure that both you and your horse are relaxed, well rested, and have had a good meal before the photography shoot. Having your horse's favorite treats along to get their attention or reward them during your session is also helpful.

During your Photography Session:

Most photography sessions begin with a brief discussion about the relationship you have with your horse and taking a look around for photographic areas at your chosen location. The more relaxed you are the more relaxed your horse will be and the results are more natural looking photographs.

The type of relationship you have with your horse will also dictate what photos are captured. I encourage you to interact with your horse as if I were not there to capture a variety of other shots, such as a caress down your horse's nose or a pat on the neck. The type of shots that are captured will depend on how the session is going, the individual, the horse, and their relationship.

Early in the day horses are generally alert, but still relaxed and willing to pay attention to the assistant and photographer. Though photos that involve the horse(s) and individual(s) looking directly into the camera are posed, the focus will still on a natural interaction between you and your horse. These types of photos can be taken with the individual on the ground beside their horse or riding. Shots can begin with the horse in either a halter or bridle and then can be moved along till the horse is completely tacked up.

Following the formal portrait shots, we can move into conformation shots. You should know how to set your horse up for the breed you are handling and have your horse already trained to the standard. These shots may be taken first if the formal shots include completely tacking up the horse.

After the conformation shots follows the riding shots. We will begin with some general riding shots and then move into anything discipline specific such as jumping, etc.

Additional shots may include:

At rest shots: These photos show your horse in their natural environment out in the pasture or walking down the lane, etc. and of you interacting with your horse. I am in the background to capture the moment. Some of these shots will be set up and directed while others will be captured during different times throughout your session.

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