As promised in Part 1 of this series, I would like to help you bring out your horse’s best with your photographs. Whether for sales, or just showing off on Facebook, nice photos that well represent your horse’s features are important. Maybe you’ve noticed that when you take pictures of your horse some of them don’t even look like your horse and you’re like, “Ew, gag!” But others are nice, really nice. I’m going to take you through what I’ve found to be four important elements to equine portraiture.
I think I’ll let the photos do the talking for me on this one. Take a look and see the difference for yourself. These two photos were taken moments from each other.
Don’t go getting all crazy on me and set up backdrops of fairies and butterflies and stuff, but do use some common sense on this one. The fewer distractions the better. If your photo is of a horse, then we want to see the horse, the whole horse, and nothing but the horse! I hate sales photos of horses in pens. As a potential buyer, this says to me “My horse is mean and unbroke and I’m too scared to catch him”. It’s also puzzling to me when I see junk laying around in the background of the photo. You would be amazed at what you can see sometimes! Learn to notice the little things. Photographers need to be very aware of every little detail.
Harsh lighting creates harsh shadows. Those shadows can create optical illusions. Do you best to avoid photographing your horse in the middle of a sunny day. You are better off finding some shade, or waiting for an overcast day. The diffused (shaded) light will give you a nice even exposure over your whole horse. Exposure is basically how light or dark your photo is. Your camera will do its very best to properly expose your horse, but it isn’t able to process light as well as our human eyes. When you have very bright and very dark areas in one photo the camera has to make a choice. It can properly expose the bright areas, leaving the darker areas way too dark, or it can expose for the dark areas and the bright areas will become “blown out”, or white blobs of light with no detail.
The prettiest light is found very early or very late in the day when the sun is low in the sky. The light is not as harsh, and it’s full of warm, golden color that will make your photos vibrant and awesome. All the pros know that you have to be morning person AND a night person to be a good photographer and catch the good light. If you choose to take advantage of this delicious light, be aware of where you place the sun in relation to your horse. If your horse is between you and the sun he will be silhouetted. If you are between the sun and your horse then you should see him illuminated in awesome light. If you’re brave, you can play around with side-lighting for some creative effects.
This may very well be the trickiest part. They say that if you ask 20 different horse people the same question, you will get 20 different answers. We all like things a little different. Take a moment to think about what you like about your horse. What breed is your horse? What type of riding do you do? Now think about some of the photos you’ve seen of your role models. How were they positioned in the photos? I’m not going to cover every single breed of horse and riding discpline right now, but I will do my best to give you some basic pointers. (If you have questions of a more specific nature, please feel free to email and ask!)
This is a basic conformation shot, a side view that allows you to really see how a horse is put together. Make sure your horse is on level ground and that he is standing mostly square. In this photo I have one hind leg forward to make his hip appear fuller and to smooth out his topline.
Where a horse is in his stride when you snap the shutter makes a big difference in how your photograph will turn out. Do your best to pay attention and to time your shots. Until you get the hang of it, you may want to employ the “pray and spray” method. Put your camera on rapid fire and snap away!
I know this is a lot to take in, don’t be overwhelmed! Just grab your camera and go out and get started!
Question? Hoping I would cover something that isn’t here? Leave me a comment or shoot me an email! I’m happy to help.