Want to take photos of your horse but not sure how best to approach it so you show them off at their best? Whether you are taking photos of your horses to preserve memories for the future, show off their best attributes to prospective buyers, show them off to friends on facebook, or just want to improve your photography skills there are a few things you should follow when photographing your horses.
Daylight Photography Tips
Try to pick a day that is overcast but still bright out. This enables you to take pictures from almost any direction without casting harsh shadows across your Gypsy Cob’s body. While it may not be overcast on your chosen day for pictures, you should plan to start photographing early in the morning or late afternoon/evening to avoid direct sunlight overhead which casts sharp shadows across the horse’s body. If the sun is shining, try to remember to shoot horses with the bright sunlight behind you. The evening light just prior to sunset is one of our favorite time to photograph horses as it casts them in a warm glow.
Prepare your Horse & the Photo Area
Groom and/or bathe the horse prior to taking photos if possible. A clean well kept horse shows that you care about their condition and will make them stand out amongst all the pictures of dirty horses taken without prior planning. If the horse will be wearing a halter or other tack in the photo, make sure that what they are wearing is clean and well fitting.
Try to make sure that the background in the area is as free of distracting objects as possible. A clean fence line, trees, grassy field or a neat skyline a little ways behind you can make the difference in an ok versus a stellar photo. If the photos are for sale purposes you will want to make sure the footing below the horse is as free of manure as possible and that the horse’s hooves and legs can be seen. If the grass is tall, mow it first or consider a different location for photos when shooting for conformation pictures.
Pay Attention to Angles
When taking pictures of horses, angles are important. Gypsy Cobs and especially foals are known for being short. Try to kneel down, lean over or squat when photographing these horses so the camera is no higher than their withers. If you’re standing up to take photos they will often give the horse a distorted look as you are shooting down on them. If you do not have a digital SLR camera try to stick with profile and 3/4 angle pictures of the horses as the front and rear photos can look distorted with point and shoot cameras that do not have interchangeable lenses. The best place to be when photographing a horse for a conformation photo is directly perpendicular to their flank but focusing on their shoulder which will create a slight angle towards the front of the horse when taking the picture. Feel free to experiment with positioning as you get more comfortable taking pictures. With practice you will notice that your angles improve and show the horse off their best.
Horses move quickly and it may not be possible to avoid taking a photo of them with their head down or when they are in a downward transition/stride. With a digital camera it’s easy to only select the best photos you’ve taken to show off the horse. Discard the unflattering pictures that make the horse look like they have a super long neck, no angle to their shoulder, etc. You know your horse and its best traits. Try to avoid awkward stride photos where a horse has just one leg on the ground. You want to show off their natural carriage to the best you can with nice forward motion to round their neck and show natural collection when shooting action photos. Sometimes this will require motivation to speed up, etc. so they aren’t being lazy (and subsequently look lazy/half asleep) in the photos.
Don’t be afraid to move around frequently to get the best angles and pictures. It takes work to get up and down a lot but you will be able to capture better pictures than if you just stay in one location all of the time. Horses move around and you should expect to as well to get photos at the proper angles.
Watch for a horse (especially young horses) to set themselves up naturally for pictures when you’re not doing in-hand photos where you can set them up. Ideally you want the horse’s two legs that are closest to you to be square beneath their body and the two legs furthest from you to be visible under the horse’s belly (ie, the back leg is forward of square and the front leg is just back of square). If the horse is a young foal they may not stand up square so take the best photos possible at that time. Avoid showcasing photos that show a young foal down in the pasterns. Their legs will strengthen in a few days and those photos will provide a better representation of their conformation.
Catch their Attention (horse and human)
With so many horses for sale and/or standing at stud these days you need to put some real effort into making your horse stand out from the herd, if you want to be successful in selling them or showing them off as a potential stallion that someone would consider breeding their mare to.
Don’t be afraid to use props such as a mirror, milk jugs with rocks or something else in them to make them rattle, etc. You know your horse best — get creative in finding ways to catch their attention so they are alert for pics. You want to get pictures that show them alert and with their ears up in an interested and curious manner. Dull, ears back and/or bored expressions are what you want to avoid. Get the pictures you need and then move on to something new so the horse does not get frustrated. If you are taking in-hand photos of a horse you ideally want to have two helpers. One to hold the horse and one to stand behind you or off to the side to catch the horse’s attention. Several helpers are also ideal when shooting pictures of horses in a round pen, paddock or pasture setting where one can get the horse moving and the others can assist in getting alert expressions for you to capture on camera. Since most Gypsy Cobs are extremely friendly you’ll find having assistance from a helper is often a necessity, otherwise you might as well plan on only getting a lot of nostril and close up head photos.
Practice for Improvement
Get to know your camera’s settings, prepare your Gypsy Horse and go have some fun taking pictures! Take enough pictures that you can give a positive and true representation of your horse that will make others take notice of them. It can take awhile to get enough great photos to show off your horse so try to plan for shooting pictures when you’re not in a hurry. Practice with careful planning will net improvement. Study pictures that others have taken that catch your attention and try to make note of what you like about them. Then try for photos with similar poses yourself. If you aren’t comfortable with your photography results feel free hire a professional equine photographer for the pictures that you need to have taken now and keep snapping pictures on your own to improve your skills. If you’re seriously interested in learning more about photography, you might want to check out a course at your local community college or enroll online through sources such as learntotakephotos.com which specifically provides tutorials and online classes geared towards photographing horses.
Overall, you’ll feel a sense of pride when you know that you’ve done the best job possible in representing your horse through your photography skills.