How to Take a Good Picture of Your Horse

How to take a good picture of your horse!

How to take a good picture of your horse.

Note the title of this post: “How to Take a Good Picture of Your Horse” NOT “How to Take a GREAT Picture of Your Horse” nor is it “How to Take a Professional Picture of Your Horse.”

I have noticed that many many people post photos of their horses that are just not flattering. I’m not talking about those cutesy photos that show the horse’s personality. The close ups of their nose or ears. Fun angles, horses smiling… Those photos are not what this blog is about.

This blog is about those photos that show the horse in a flattering way so you can sell it, or post it on your website. This blog is about a simple and quick way you can get nice photos of your horses that show them to their advantage without all the fancy grooming, photoshopping and lighting. I’ll leave that to the professionals. This blog is for those of us that have nice horses and a small photography budget but want to show our horses at their straight-from-pasture-best!

(Don’t get me wrong. Having the opportunity to have a professional come out and photograph your horses is absolutely the way to go if you can afford it! There is nothing like having some truly gorgeous glamor shots of your horses on your website and hanging in your house!)

What NOT to do:

  • Don’t stand your horse in the shade.
  • Don’t stand your horse in front of a bunch of junk, cars, buildings, hay stacks, buckets, garbage cans, other horses, horse trailers, etc.
  • Don’t photograph your horses dirty. Really, muddy horses are not pretty.
  • Don’t photograph your horse while standing above him. If you are photographing big horses then you can stand!
  • Don’t photograph your horse while it’s eating. Just don’t. Save those for whimsical photos…

What you SHOULD do:

  • Do photograph your horse in the sunshine. Natural light is so beautiful. My favorite times of the day for photo shoots are in the morning before 11 and in the evening after 4. I’ve found that horses photograph well in the middle of the day as well. I just prefer the golden light of the morning and evening!
  • Do photograph your horse with a clean background. If there are buildings off in the distance just try to make sure they are not sticking out of the horse’s neck, head, back or leg in your photo. If it is just move the horse a bit. Trees make a nice background if they are well leafed out. Dead trees are just distracting. Also if you have trees in your background it’s best to stand the horse closer to the photographer than to the trees. Let the trees stay in the background…
  • Do photograph your horse clean! I don’t mean you have to bath them… just brush them really well. There is no point in even taking your camera out if they are covered in mud, unless you WANT a picture of a dirty horse just for fun. Don’t post a dirty picture of your horse on it’s webpage.
  • Do photograph your horse with a nice halter on. I like to use a clean leather halter, nothing fancy just simple.
  • Do photograph your horse while squatting or laying down on the ground. This works well for big horses as well as minis.
  • Do photograph your horse using your zoom lens. You don’t have to have a big fancy camera for this. Even phones have a zoom now! So stand far enough away from your horse to use that zoom. It will help keep the horse in proportion.
  • Do have a helper hold your horse. They can have a noise maker… a bucket with feed or even a few rocks in it works great! I also use a stick with a plastic bag tied to the end. Squeaky dog toys work. Mirrors are fun to play with. And even a cat in a bucket will help get those ears up!
  • Do back your horse into position. This just helps get their legs to line up nicely. For some reason backing them into position just works better than walking them forward.
  • Do look for expression. Sometimes you have to take many many photos in a row to get one with the ears up. Just keep clicking while your helper works to get the horse interested.
  • Do position yourself in line with the horse’s withers. Be far enough away to use your zoom but be sure you are in a good position to get a nice porportional shot. This will ensure you don’t get one of those shots that makes your horse’s head look HUGE. I stay right in line or just behind the withers when taking my photos.
Nice side shot of sky. The wind was blowing her mane however so we had to change directions...

Nice side photo of Sky. The wind was blowing her mane however so we had to change directions…

Sometimes you think everything is just perfect and then the wind comes up! In that case just turn the horse so the wind works for you.

Good picture of Sky!

Good picture of Sky!

And of course it’s nice to get the horse to use it’s neck a bit. In this case I used a bucket with rocks and she looked into the bucket!

Sky using her neck a bit to peek into the feed bucket I am using to get her ears up!

Sky using her neck a bit to peek into the feed bucket I am using to get her ears up!

Having lots of helpers makes this process so much easier!

One of my helpers... the kitty in the feed bucket!

One of my helpers… the kitty in the feed bucket!

Having a helper will make this process so much easier!

Having a helper will make this process so much easier!

I am usually out taking photos by myself so I teach my horses to give me their ears when they just see the camera in my hand. I do that by giving them a well timed treat. At first I have to be quick to get that treat to them right after they hear the click of the camera. Then after a few times of that if they just SEE the camera they will perk those ears up and I can get them the treat after a click or two. This is very helpful for when I’m alone and want some fun whimsical photos!

Using a well timed treat will also teach your horse to put those ears up when they see you have a camera. Most of my horses will LOOK when they see the camera because they know they'll get a treat after the click!

Using a well timed treat will also teach your horse to put those ears up when they see you have a camera. Most of my horses will LOOK when they see the camera because they know they’ll get a treat after the click!

If you have any questions please leave a comment or send me an email!

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