A horse is one of the most magnificent and photogenic creatures on earth, and that is no exaggeration. Its silky smooth coat, fluffy mane, pure strength, elegant gaits, and gentle spirit makes a horse so easy to fall in love with.
When you have a horse you love, you’ll probably want to take photos with it at some point, in order to preserve your memories. After all, you’ve built a strong bond with your horse and it’s a part of your family! But capturing this in a photo can be a bit difficult.
If you have a horse photoshoot coming up, you want to make sure everything goes right and the photos come out excellent. So, you have to remember to prepare them, yourself, the photographer, and the location for a successful equine photoshoot.
This guide will be helpful for:
- horse owners who want to take photos with their horses to capture and preserve memories
- models or horse lovers who want to do an equine photoshoot
- those taking senior photos with a horse involved
- photographers who want to do a horse photoshoot for professional reasons or to build their portfolio
This guide summarizes the most important considerations factor in for a successful horse photoshoot. Read on to the end to discover what to do and what not to do.
RELATED: 11+ Ideas & Tips for Senior Pictures with Horses
1. Safety Comes First
I’m sure you already know that horses can cause quite a bit of damage when they become frightened or angered. Therefore, the first step in making your horse photoshoot a success is to ensure that it is safe for you, the equine, and the horse.
If you’re working with your own horse that you’ve had for a while, you probably already have a good idea of what might set your horse off, but you should always take care when going into new environments or doing anything new with your horse.
If you’re doing a photoshoot using someone else’s horse or one you don’t know very well, make sure to listen to everything the handler or equine tells you. Pay close attention to the horse’s attitude and mood even before the shoot begins. The shoot will only succeed if everyone involved is in the right mood.
It is a good idea to introduce your model to the camera and other photography gear gently. Then, when you get to the shoot location, let it sniff the gear and get familiar with the shutter sounds first. This is particularly important if it is the horse’s first photoshoot.
And no matter what you do, make sure to steer clear from the area behind the horse. If you’re behind a horse when it gets spooked, it could result in serious injury.
2. Decide on Your Mood & Scenery
You’ll want to decide on what kind of look and feel you want for your photos. Here are some questions to consider when planning your equine photo shoot:
- Do you want it to be at the barn, in a field, on the road, at the beach, in the woods, or somewhere else?
- Do you want to be riding the horse or beside it?
- Do you want to be riding with a saddle and gear or bareback?
- Do you want to be wearing riding gear or something fancier like a dress?
- Are there any specific shots you want to make sure you get? (Close-ups, specific angles, distance-shots, etc?)
- Will there be any kids involved? If so, do you have all of the necessary permissions from parents, etc? Have you taken extra safety precautions?
The absolute best place to get ideas for horse photoshoot ideas is Pinterest, so I would recommend surfing photos there a few weeks in advance and creating an idea board to share with the photographer and/or model.
3. Get The Right Gear and Apparel
A horse photoshoot is not something you do every day, so you must prepare well to make your session worth it. One of the most important steps of preparation is getting inspiration for the pictures you take and getting the right gear for those scenes.
There are many unique boots, jeans, cowboy hats, breeches, coats, and other apparel you may need for the shoot. In addition, the horse may need hoofs, wraps, ties, bridles, ropes and lines, muzzles, cribbing straps, and even anti-bug sprays for outdoor shoots.
In general, it takes a lot of preparation to pull off unique successful photoshoots. Seek inspiration online to know what you want and what is required. If you need to, you can shop for the apparel and gear on equestrian collections or horseloverz.com.
You can also check out our various guides to riding outfits when planning the wardrobe for your shoot. We have ideas for different colored riding outfits, the best hairstyles for riding, and more.
4. Prepare Your Model for the Shoot in Advance
How you prepare your model for the photoshoot will largely depend on the shoot location. If the shoot will take place in the stable or an environment the horse is familiar with, preparation shouldn’t take much effort.
However, if you have chosen some exotic outdoor area or an indoor studio for the shoot, you must take the time to prepare the horse for the photo session. Read up all information about the horse’s breed – temperament, riding styles, and personality.
Be sure to wash and groom the horse in good time. Take the time to brush the coat and comb the mane. If your photos include the horse wearing a bridle, do not forget to clean and polish it too.
5. Prepare the Shoot Location
Ask anyone with an Instagram account, and they will admit that the background of any shoot is just as important as the model of the shoot. In a horse photoshoot, in particular, location matters a lot. Therefore, wherever you choose to take pictures, be sure it is expansive enough and that it’s a space in which the horse will be comfortable.
As a rule of thumb, the horse photoshoot location should be expansive enough for a lens of a focal length of 200mm. Choose the background carefully and eliminate or avoid any distracting elements. If you plan to shoot in multiple locations, it is advisable to set aside a day or two before the shoot to prepare the location adequately.
Preparing the shoot location should also include introducing the horse to it. Let the horse get familiar with the new environment if it’s not already, even letting it run free and explore before the actual shoot begins.
6. Liaise with the Photographer in Advance
Is there anything about the horse that the photographer needs to know? If the horse is not yours, what does the owner or handler say that everyone coming in contact with it should know?
For instance, if the horse is shy and is wary of meeting new people, everyone involved should be aware of that. Some horses respond well to gentle voices and touches but may react unpredictably to sudden motions.
The success of your horse photoshoot will be largely dependent on the efficiency of communication between you, the photographer, and the horse handler or owner.
7. Ask the Right Questions
Once you know all you need to know about the horse and the location, you can then ask the photographer what they expect from you.
In most cases, you just need to express your expectations to the photographer, and they can instruct you what to do. For instance, you can describe the nature of photographs you want (see tip #2!), and they will advise on the suitability of the location, time, and your attire.
Some of the questions you should ask even before you book a photo shoot session are:
- Which locations and scenes do you shoot?
- What camera gear do you use in photo shoots?
- How should I prepare the horse and the location for the photo shoot?
- What clothing options are best based on location, timing, and the horse’s color?
- Can you shoot more than one horse at a time?
8. What to Do During the Shoot
One of the best things about horse photo shoots is the myriad of poses and scenery options available to choose from. Since I cannot cover everything there is to do during a shoot, here are the most important points to consider to make the photo session a success.
- It is best to shoot in natural light during the day. Camera flashes and reflector glints can spook a horse and should not be used if possible.
- Get comfortable with the horse before the shoot begins. Pat, groom, ride or even feed it. The more comfortable the horse is during the shoot, the better the shots will come out.
- Focus on showing off the horses’ best physical features. Choose the right poses that show the horse’s body structure and athletic build in some of the photos.
- Again, always approach the horse from the side or directly from the front. Do not get too comfortable to let your guard down, and most importantly, never approach the horse from behind.
9. Hire a Professional Equine Photographer
The most common mistake people make that completely ruins their horse photoshoots have nothing to do with them, the horse, or the location: it is often a poor choice of the photographer.
A horse is a large, strong, and defensive animal. It will do what it is guided to do but can cause a lot of harm should anything go wrong. That’s why you should not hire a photographer who knows nothing about horses.
Horse photography is a niche art that takes time and trial and error to perfect. Do not hire a photographer just because they take the best wedding photos for your horse photoshoot. Take the time to find the right photographer who has experience in taking impressive horse photos.
The photographer should also know how to calm the horse and make you pose right to take the best photos. They must know how to attract the horse’s attention and understand the risk of handling such delicate equipment around a horse from a legal perspective.
10. Do Not Try Something New During The Shoot
It will probably take you some time to prepare for your horse photoshoot, and even longer to make sure the horse is familiar with what you have planned. Like everything else, making last-minute changes and improvising on-the-go is a recipe for a disastrous photo shoot.
If you get any new ideas during or right before the photoshoot, it is wise to discuss them with the photographer and horse owner or handler. When unsure of anything, such as a cool move you saw in your favorite western movie, it is safer not to try it than to try and fail.
11. Be Patient & Flexible
Just like humans, horses have good and bad days. There’s a chance the horse you’re working with might not be on its best behavior the morning of the shoot.
If that’s the case, be ready to be flexible and patient with everyone involved, especially the horse. You may need to switch up your strategy or do the shoot in a different environment. You may need to spend more time than you’d planned for getting the horse comfortable. You might have to forgo the riding shots and go for beside-the-horse shots instead. You may need to move to a different location based on the weather.
Remember that if you need to, you can always schedule another shoot on a sunnier day or with a different horse.
12. Have Fun!
Of course, the hope is that your shoot is actually an enjoyable experience for everyone involved! So try to go into your shoot with a lighthearted, confident mindset, and have a good time!
Whether you’re a horse owner, model, or photographer, I hope this guide has been helpful in planning your horse photoshoot.
If you’re considering getting a horse of your own, make sure to check out my guide on how to buy your first horse.