Preparing for an Equine Photo Session


When preparing for a session with your horse(s) there are several things that you can do to make things go smoother and easier. There are also some things that I as the photographer need to think about and look for to ensure quality photographs.Some of these things I will discuss with you as the client to ensure we both have the same understanding of what you are looking for in your session.

One thing that is important for you to think about and for me to know is when you think of your photographs from this session is what is your purpose for this session and/or what in the end do you plan to use the photographs for. I.e. Senior photos, advertising, Christmas Cards, etc. I understand that it is possible that you have several ideas on how you plan to use your photos and we can make sure we cover all of them. The importance of this knowledge comes down to the fact that the purpose of the photos can really determine how the session flows and what types of photographs are focused on and captured.

Knowing how many horse(s) are to be photographed as well as the number of individuals with the horses can have an affect on where the shots are taken and how long of a session is required to ensure that all the shots are captured and to ensuring that everyone can remain relaxed and comfortable. It is also helpful to know if you are hoping to have any photos taken with multiple horses in the same shot.

In addition make sure that you are dressed in solid colors that compliment your companion without distracting logos or designs. If there is more then one individual planning to be in the photograph ensure you are wearing complimentary colors. From experience I find that if you are of a light colored complexion it is best to wear dark colors such as a dark tan, browns, grays, dark greens, dark blues, etc. If you are of a darker complexion it is better to wear colors such as light tan, light brown, light greens, light blues, etc. However if your horse is of dark color then look for a something that is a few shades lighter, if yours horse is of a lighter color you want to be a few shades darker. For everyone it is best to avoid white shirts unless you have a vest/jacket, etc over the shirt. Depending on the type of session or the use of your photos your attire could be formal riding attire, relaxed riding wear, or everyday clothes.

Your horse(s) should be well groomed, clipped and any tack you plan to use clean. Your halter, lead rope and bridle should be well fitting and complement both your horses coloring and your clothing. Oiling any tack can make it really shine but ensure that it will not affect your ability to be safe during any riding shots. Additionally be sure to fly spray your horse and bring extra fly spray along, just in case.

Choose a location that is relaxing for you and your companion, free of distractions and clutter. I also find it is helpful to choose an area that your horse is already familiar with. Areas to consider are barn doorways, trails, or a local riding park. If you are planning on doing riding shots an outdoor arena has better lighting and provides for better background in your photos. For shots of your horse at liberty a field pasture is best.

In addition to choosing a complimentary location is choosing the time of day for your photographs. I find the best lighting for photographs is between an hour before dawn till 1130am and then from 300pm till an hour after dusk. The lighting between 1130am and 3pm is extremely harsh, causes deep shadows, and causes photos to look washed out. It may also be helpful to bring along an assistant to help hold your horse or get their attention. They will be in the background behind the camera and will do different things so we can try and ensure that the horses ears are forward and the horse is looking in the direction needed for the shot.

The biggest thing you can do to ensure a positive experience for you and your companion is to make sure that both of you are relaxed, well rested, and have had a good meal before hand. It is also helpful to have your horse’s favorite treats along to get their attention or reward them during your session.

At the Photography Session:

When taking photos of you and your companion there are several types of photos I will work to capture. Most sessions will begin with a brief discussion with you about the relationship you have with your companion, taking a look around for photographic spots at your chosen location and letting everyone relax. The more relaxed you are the more relaxed your companion will be and the results are natural looking photographs.

Depending on the purpose of your session and the time of day will dictate to some degree how your session will flow.

From here I prefer to move into standard portraiture. Early in the day the horses are generally alert yet relaxed and willing to pay attention to the assistant and photographer. This is the most common photo most individuals are used to viewing. These photos involve the companion(s) and individual(s) looking directly into the camera as if posed. While I will make minor adjustments to the companion and individual, my focus is still on a natural interaction between you and your animal. These photos can be taken both with the individual on the ground or staged in a particular way (i.e. riding a horse, preparing to do an obstacle course), formal attire or relaxed clothes. Generally these shots begin with the horse taken in either a halter or bridle and then can be moved along till the horse is completely tacked up. A variety of these options are also very nice and very easy to accommodate.

Following the formal portrait shots, if you are looking for confirmation shots we will move to these type of shots. You as the handler should know how to set your horse up for the breed you are handling and already have them trained to the standard. These type of shots may be done first if the formal shots will include completely tacking up the horse.

After the confirmation shots if you desire riding shots we will take some time for you to tack up, change any clothes you need to and then move to the riding and/or driving shots. We will start with some general riding shots and then move into anything discipline specific. I.e. jumping shots, reining slides, etc.

Following any riding shots we will move into At Liberty shots of your horse. If you choose to do an early morning session the At liberty shots may be split between early in the morning and then some later in the afternoon.

During all phases of the photo shoot I will also be looking for and encouraging you to interact with your horse as if I were not there to capture a variety of other shots. The type of shots that are captured will depend on how the session is going, as well as depending on the individual, the companion and their relationship.

Additional shots may include:

Environmental shots: these are shots that show the animal/individual in their natural environment out in the pasture, or walking down the lane, etc. These photos are where you are interacting with your animal and I am just there 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.

Connection shots: these are shots where you and your companion are together and interacting and the relationship between the two of you shines through. It may be the gentle caress down your companion’s nose or the pat on the neck after a good workout; the type of relationship you have will dictate what photos are captured. These moments generally occur through the shoot but I may ask you to do things that may help you relax and focus on your animal and forget about my presence and let the moments unfold.