Horse Photography

Pet pictures are a quite popular niche in photo art. Who doesn’t like watching these cute shots of little kittens or puppies playing with each other and just acting funny? Or maybe there’s someone who doesn’t get fascinated while looking upon the pictures of wild lions, lazily watching in the camera?

Actually, there’s hardly an animal we don’t consider cute, pretty, or just interesting to look at, but of course, we have some favorites. Besides cute kitties or dangerous lions, there’s one kind of animal that we find extremely graceful and majestic — a horse. In fact, horses are no fewer friends to us than dogs. A lot of people, who live on farms or have houses in spacious valleys, decide to have at least one horse, some — even a small herd. 

Photographs of these graceful animals get a lot of views and likes from internet users, and it seems that equine photography has become a very large niche in pet photography itself. So, it’s not surprising that more and more people get interested in it. But where to begin? These tips will be helpful for you, no matter if you’re just a beginner or a proficient photographer.

Facilities

Well, it is quite obvious that if you have decided to become a photographer, you would need a good camera. But, to become a rather good photographer, you need a little more. Let’s take a closer look at a professional photographer’s equipment:

  • A DSLR (Digital Single-lens Reflex) camera. To make excellent horse photography, you surely need a professional camera. That’s simple.

  • A compatible lens. Well, you can use different kinds of lenses (wide-angle, standard, etc.), but only of the same brand (scarcely a Nikon camera will be compatible with Canon lenses).

  • A lens filter. This will reduce unwanted flashes and reflections and also helps to intensify the colors. Keep in mind that each lens has its own specifics.

  • Memory cards/ Batteries and charges. That’s simple: it would be quite tediously to get run out of memory space or battery while doing a photoshoot. 

These are the most important things for a photographer, but some others would facilitate your work:

  • Mono-/ tripod. You see, camera equipment can be heavy sometimes, and even if you have strong hands, you will hardly be able to hold the camera still for several hours. So, in order not to get your images vague, you better get some monopod or tripod.

  • Flashes/ light reflectors. Natural lighting is good, but sometimes it’s just not good enough. That’s when lighting equipment comes for help.

  • Toys/ treats for the horse. There’s no better way to make a horse look straight to the camera than offering it some treats.

Camera settings for animal photography

Yeah, having full equipment provides a greater chance that you will succeed in your equine photographer career, but still, it doesn't guarantee it. You see, your camera isn’t a sentient creature and doesn’t understand why it should concentrate on a horse instead of that fancy tree behind. So, in order to make the camera your best helping tool, it is worth knowing some basic photography terms:

  • Aperture is the opening in the lens, which helps to control the amount of light that gets to it. It is scaled by “f-stops”. The lesser the number (i.e., f/2), the wider the aperture. So, it lets in more light. On the contrary: the bigger the number, the narrower the aperture. As a result — less light. Also, it is connected with focus: less number means that background will be blurry.

  • ISO defines the sensitivity of your camera to light. High ISO lets you shoot in the darkness. 

N.B. Though if you choose too high ISO (i.e., ISO 3200) to shoot in the darkness, your picture may be too grainy.

  • Shutter Speed. It means how long the lens may be open before taking the picture. The more your shutter stays open, the more light it lets in.

  • Depth of field. This concerns the definition of focus. 

  • Bokeh. It is the style of photography which means that objects out-of-focus are blurred.

Equine photography types

If you surf the Internet in order to find some photos of horses, you’ll probably notice that they are quite alike in their stylistics, angles, and poses. But, different types of shots have different requirements, and sometimes, taking a good picture can be way harder than it seems. Here are some popular kinds of equine photography:

Portrait 

Portraits usually can be of two types: horse alone or with its owner. Of course, everyone would like to get a beautiful picture with their pet? Horse owners are no exception. Sometimes, it’s just a beautiful shot to remember, and sometimes, it is a special way to say goodbye to your dying pet. 

To make such a photo, choose an aperture range between 3.5 to 5. Also, try to pick as low ISO as possible, so your picture won’t be too light. And, of course, to make a clear shot without extra blur, choose the quickest shutter speed.

Performance or Show photography

First of all, pick up the quick shutter speed (1/1000 would be great). But, when it comes to ISO, try to choose the lowest one. But what about the aperture? Well, when you choose the aperture, be sure that you have the right depth of field to capture the horse. The best option here is f/5.6, but you may choose f/4 and even f/2.8.

N.B. Beware of using lightning or flash at the competition, as this probably scares the animal, which may lead to tragic results. 

Shooting in wild nature

Taking a photograph of the horse in its natural habitat sounds like an excellent idea. But, as alluring it may sound, it also can be quite challenging or even dangerous. Though still in equine photography, there’s plenty of such pictures. 

Get a telephoto lens, as you won’t be able to get close to the animal without scaring it. Also, don’t forget to take a monopod or tripod, as these kinds of lenses are really heavy. If you want to capture the horse among the beautiful landscape, choose the narrower aperture (i.e., f/7.1 f/13). But, if you’d like to focus only on the horse, choose the wider one. 

Working with horses

Horse photography may be a challenge, not just because it’s hard to make a beautiful picture, but primarily because of its main stars — horses. They can be quite naughty sometimes: bite you, don’t listen to your commands, or even become angry. 

Also, they may be scared of the equipment, especially the lightning. So, before the photoshoot, make sure to get the horse adjusted to the camera and tripod. And don’t forget to make a good first impression of yourself. You see, horses are quite intuitive animals due to their prey nature, so if you’re scared, angry, or nervous, they will feel it and become nervous as well. 

To facilitate your work, make sure to bring something tasty for the horse, like apples or fresh carrots. 

As you can see, horse photography has its own difficulties, but if you take this job seriously and spend some time with preparation, the process and the result may be great!

FAQs

How much do Horse Show photographers make?

Well, that rather depends on the level of your professionalism, experience, and equipment. Usually, professional horse photographers have an income between $60,000 — $66,000 annually.

How do professionals take pictures of horses?

Usually, they stick to the basic rules of horse photography (i.e., capture the horse with ears up, be careful when using flash, etc.)

What is the best camera for horse photography?

A Digital SLR camera would be a great choice. Most photographers choose Nikon or Canon.

What should I wear for an equine photoshoot?

Try to select some simple and comfortable clothes. Pay special note to your shoes, as you will probably be on your feet all day. Also, check up on the weather forecast.

(Aug 30, 2021) Clemence Servonnat How to Inspiration