Hello all! I put a call out for blog post topics you’d like to see on The Yeg Equestrian, and a request for an equine photography tips post came though! Being that I am a photographer I thought- hey I can do that! So here are the Top 5 Equine Photography Tips from me, Sarah Mavro the creator of The Yeg Equestrian
1. Assess your light: This is what every professional photographer is doing, even when you don’t realize it. The type and location of light can make or break your photos. “Golden Hour” and dusk are some of the most flattering times to shoot, providing a nice goldenly light right before the sun sets, and then nice even lighting as dusk settles. However, especially in summer when this occurs at 10:00PM, it’s not always feasible to shoot at this time. Photographing on a cloudy day also makes for great photos, but sadly I haven’t learned to control the weather yet. On a sunny day when the sun is high, you’ll want to either seek shade, or make sure the sun is behind your subject to find the most flattering lighting.
2. Look for the little details: This is the time to be picky with your horses appearance. Thorough brushing, painted hooves, and clean tack go a long way and will save you time editing later. You don’t have to go crazy, but even a quick wipe will help things look a bit more polished. Try to avoid bright or distracting colors for accessories (unless that’s what you’re going for!). I always keep some baby wipes in my bag for wiping noses or eye crusties. There’s always photoshop for those extra long whiskers or grass stains but it’s always best to clean up what you can beforehand!
3. If your horse is hot, work them earlier in the day: You don’t particularly want to photograph a horse right after they’ve been worked. You’ll be dealing with a sweaty, veiny looking creature. It also can affect how engaged they will be with the camera. However, if you have a somewhat sassy equine on your hands, a SOLID morning workout can do wonders for their mentality for a shoot later in the day. Often during sessions I will be shooting with an owner and their horse on somewhat odd areas of the property that you may not have taken your furry companion before, which can bring out a little bit of an attitude for some horses. “WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE ME STAND BY THIS DECREPIT OLD SHED AT THE BACK OF THE PROPERTY HUMAN? THERE ARE DEFINITELY GHOSTS HERE”. Anyways, you know your horse best and this isn’t needed for most horses, but it can help bring success if you’re having trouble.
4. Actions shots are tricky, and your gear comes into play: I’ll be the first to admit that I no longer shoot much event or action shots. The cameras I have are geared towards great quality portrait shots and performing well in low light situations. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t still take action shots but a camera built for performance shooting will definitely have a much easier time. For moving subjects, learn your cameras autofocus modes. You want to have the camera constantly tracking your subject at all times, and have your shutter set to burst mode. With horses especially I take a ton of burst shots so you can select the shot where their legs and body look the best. The exception to this comes with jumping. When I am shooting jumping, I lock my focus on the jump itself and wait for the horse to come to me. Once they are about to take off I take a burst of shots and the focus will be perfect on the shot you want of them soaring over the jump. Action shots can be some of the trickiest out there though, so don’t be afraid to just pay a professional to take some great ones. It does take years of practice and fairly high end gear to accomplish those beautiful working shots.
5. Indoor arena light is hell: I don’t even particularly have a tip on this one, that’s just a fact. Unless you have a fairly high end SLR you are going to have a bad time taking pictures in an indoor arena with artificial lighting. You’ll need to boost your ISO (the higher it is, the more grain you’ll get) and you’ll need to really play with your white balance. Most arenas have a horrible orange tint to them, so you need to adjust your white balance while shooting or compensate after the fact by adding some blue tones to the photo. If all else fails, just turn the photo into a black and white. This is a photographers secret weapon to horrible lighting.
I could probably keep going and going on this topic but I’ll end the list there! If you have any specific questions I’m happy to answer them. Equine photography is really a specialty niche that requires both photographic skill and equine knowledge. Lining horses up in a way that is flattering to their confirmation and making a stellar photo can be tough, but it’s certainly one of my favorite things to capture!