Horse photography

Horse photography. Easy guidelines for a successful shoot.

If you have absolutely no experience with Horse photography or equestrian events, plan your shoot around these easy steps.

When you are shooting anything you are not sure about, you need to plan ahead and do some research. Horse photography is no exception. Horses are beautiful animals, but by nature, a bit unpredictable, easily spooked, and you have to understand the basics, or your photo shoot will be a disaster.

Best lighting for outdoors.

Best lighting is natural light for horse photography, but NOT at midday. Best time is dawn and up to mid morning and afternoon/dusk. Preferably, morning has the best light quality and a big plus to get some atmosphere is the temperature outside with flared steamy nostrils. Maybe the horse will be at it’s best in the morning.

horse photography

Plan the location.

Whether you are shooting in a paddock, woodlands, or an event, you will need to plan ahead. For example, if you are starting with the basics from a paddock, you will need to look for unwanted clutter in your frame. If you are doing a recce of your location in an afternoon, you will need to find out where the sun is early in the morning, so you can plan your best angles.

Play safe, know how to handle horses.

Horses are prey animals, which means if they feel endangered in any way, they will do whatever they need to do to escape to safety. Sometimes, you have very little notice that this is about to happen and you need to know how to diffuse the situation or get out of harm’s way. Don’t put anyone at risk and always have the owner or an experienced handler present at all times.

Portraits, respect for man and beast.

Anyone can take a photograph, however what you are doing as a budding photographer is capturing someone’s life and passion in an image that portrays the years of dedication and the bond between a person and their horse. This is the difference between what you can do and a snap-shot.

horse riding my-style

It would not harm you at all to try riding a horse for a morning, for then you may have a better understanding and a sore bottom, but ultimately i am sure it would improve your horse photography the more you learn. Which, incidently is our Moto to inspire at “You Never stop learning

I forgot to say that this is me. In my horse riding days...oh memories.

A prime lens with the right focal length.

Any lens less than a 100mm will not achieve the right proportions for horse photography. I recommend using a focal length no less than 100mm, but 200 – 400mm is ideal, especially when creating photos of horses for the purpose of selling the horse or promoting stallion services, as you want to show that the horse is well-built and proportional.

Zoom lenses are o.k. of course, but to get the best from your horse photography, it has to be a PRIME LENS, 200mm lens or longer. Hire one or borrow a lens for this job. Don’t worry about expense, hiring a £8000 lens is a lot cheaper than buying one, plus it will make THE difference to your portfolio. Share the expense with somone else over 3 days.

Experiment with the aperture, starting with 2 stops from the widest setting and focus on the eyes for head shots and the closest eye to the camera. You will need a smaller aperture when capturing the whole body area.

No flash.

No flash with horse photography. When near horses, never use flash photography. It spooks most horses, which can be dangerous for you, the horse, or for the rider if there is one involved.

Pricked ears will show the horse is interested.

Treats: If you will be working closely with the horse or doing portrait type shots, a pocketful of treats will prove very handy. The horse will be more comfortable around you, and more intrigued by that tasty smell coming from your direction. They’ll look at you more, which is great for horse photography, and might even follow you around if you start to walk away. Horses love carrots, apples, oats, and peppermints. Some even like crackers. You should give them a treat every once in a while, with the permission of the owner, to reward them for being a good subject.


Shutter speed.

Use a high shutter speed and low ISO for horse photography. This is especially true when shooting outside, or at outdoor shows. If you must shoot inside, you may have to sacrifice the low ISO to keep the shutter speed. 1/500 sec is usually the lowest preferred shutter speed for action shots, with a wide aperture around f/2.8. On a bright, sunny day, an example of a possible array of settings might be: ISO 100, shutter speed 1/840, aperture f/4.5

Equine events.

Get the appropriate credentials and follow the rules exactly. Etiquette is very important at these shows. An event like this, is where your telephoto prime lens will come in for some great horse photography. Make absolutely sure you have permission to be the right place for hurdles etc. so you can relax and focus on the apex of a jump and concentrate on your horse photography.

Hunter jumper eventing horse equine grand prix

Borrowed interest, opposites and props.

When you are happy, relaxed and confident you have got the shots you aimed for, try something a little creative, for the record. Opposites attract, if you are photographing a black horse, bring in a white horse to the side, or background. Use props to suggest opposite meanings or humour, making a connection between the horse and owner will make an impact with your horse photography. Also, try some extreme lighting from the side and into the sun. Silhouettes can be great as cameo’s dotted about your portfolio.

ahh... nothing better than bareback horse ride. And I will add a swim in the creek Cindy!  Loved to do that!!!

Use these guidlines for your horse photography and look forward to some great results. You never stop learning.


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