"Film is cheap! Time is not!"
Honestly, that's best professional photography advice I ever received, as a budding corporate journalist years ago. Gathering business bigwigs in the boardroom for a photo-shoot can be challenging, so it's critical to keep that shutter clicking as much as possible. The ideal photo-opportunity may not appear again.
That is wholly true (but even more so) with horses.
Peppy yearlings in the pasture can be even more impatient than over-scheduled executives! Just when you think you have the ideal lighting and the magic moment, a truck may rumble by and startle the entire herd. If you have your face in the viewfinder, you may find yourself surrounded by thundering hooves in a heartbeat!
Catching a proud mare and her flashy foal right after delivery or frolicking on their first turnout together can be photographic paradise. If you’re not ready to click at the right time, however, you can miss the opportunity.
A show-ready pair simply begs to be photographed. With the dues paid, the show clothes cleaned and pressed, the tack polished, and the main braided, this is a presentation worthy of record. How can you set yourself up to snap this picture well?
10 tips for photographing horses
Although expert photographers tend to reach for professional camera equipment, it is possible for horse lovers to take artistic and memorable equine photos with low-cost digital and traditional cameras and even smart phones.
1. Charge before you go. No, I’m not talking about charging on horseback. This tip is all about showing up with a well-charged photographic device. Whether you use sophisticated camera equipment or a simple smart phone, proper power counts for plenty. This sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many devices run out of juice, just as the right photographic moment arises.
2. Memory matters. If you're heading out to a photo shoot, be sure to have lots of available memory. Camera users usually take along extra memory cards. Smart phone devotees clear their camera roll files, uploading existing files to computers or clouds before going on a shoot.
|Angled shots are nice, but don't chop off ears and hooves!|
4. Shoot outside. Most barns have terrible lighting for photos, so open-air equine photos tend to be the clearest. Plus, horses tend to kick up dust, and the particles can show up in images. Early morning and later afternoon provide softer lighting, which generally produces better pictures. Slightly overcast days tend to be better than over-bright ones.
5. Get up close and personal. If it’s feasible and safe to do so, it’s best to shoot photos near the equine subject/s than to use a zoom feature. If you are shooting at a horse show or event, then you likely will remain removed from the action, and a telephoto lens will be a must. Purchase the longest zoom you can afford.
|It's usually best to include the whole horse in the shot, unlike here.|
7. Pick flattering angles. Horses tend to photograph best from the side or from an angle, rather than straight-on.
8. Frame your subject. As you shoot, try to get the whole horse inside your viewfinder. You can always crop your photos later. It’s astonishing how many horse photos lop off the animal’s legs or other parts. Except for extreme close-ups, head shots, and intentional artistic angles, full-body shots are generally the most appealing. This tip applies especially to portraits and horse registration photos.
9. Shoot plenty of pictures. The simple rule is this: click off as many shots as you can, for as long as you can. Today, we have smart phones and digital cameras, so we don't even pay for each exposure. Keep on clicking. Shoot as many frames as you can, particularly if the horse if moving. You can always delete the lesser-quality shots later. Ask any equine photographer how many ears-back, cocked-leg, or tail-swishing outtakes he or she has deleted.
|Ears up! And is that foal growing from his nose? Framing counts!|
10. Edit plenty. The secret to wonderful digital photographs is often in the editing process. Good photo editing software is money well-spent. You can crop right to the focal point, adjust color and contrast, convert to black and white (or antique sepia), and even correct focus and background problems.
Click! Click! That’s it. Horse photography 101 is pretty straightforward. Pick your favorite equine images, and save or post them for sharing.
Public domain photos