Horses make the best models to pose with for a photo shoot. There’s just something magical about the right destination, location, décor, makeup, and a special moment that you can capture for eternity in a photograph.
Equine photography has taken off, and more people are using horses as companions for photo shoots for weddings and special occasions, like senior pictures. If you’re a horse lover and graduating this year, you might want to use it as an opportunity to get some high-quality photos with your equine friend and mark this momentous time in your life.
However, taking photos with horses doesn’t mean you need to own horses or even be a rider. Being photographed with horses is about the beauty of an equine mode and achieving your dream senior photos.
RELATED: 10 Tips & Ideas for a Successful Horse Photoshoot
What Do You Need to Create an Equine Senior Picture?
For horse senior pictures, you will need a great location (perhaps a beautiful arena), an equine photographer, and some outstanding photo shoot ideas. Luckily, I’ve got some excellent ideas for poses, props for portraits, and styles for photographs to really capture your senior year.
Planning Your Senior Picture Shoot
When planning your photo shoot, you might want to include a trustworthy photoshoot partner, whether that’s your best friend, sister, mom, or maybe even your horse trainer. Having an extra set of hands on deck can make sure everything goes smoothly so you end up with beautiful photos that really matter to you.
At least a few weeks ahead of time, you’ll want to discuss the look you want to achieve with your photographer. What kind of setting(s) do you want to do the shoot in? What kind of mood or vibe do you want to foster?
Other preparations may include planning the images you want to capture with your horse or the horse model you will be using, selecting outfits to match the portraits you want to take, and creating scenarios that you can pose with the horse in.
It’s Never Too Early To Start Planning!
When planning the senior pictures that I wanted for my niece who was graduating, we started preparing early in summer as I wanted a winter shoot with snow and loads of great closeups. The arena turned into a winter wonderland, and the photographs for my niece’s senior year were exceptional.
Like most girls, my niece (Emily) wanted to capture images that showed her best side, and my aunt wanted photos that would be fun for her daughter to pose for. Emily actually wasn’t an experienced rider beforehand, but with my help, she started getting comfortable with the horse she would be using over the course of the summer by riding him with a friend, learning to interact with him, and embracing the fun of being one of the seniors hanging out at the barn.
By the time winter came and it was time for the shoot, Emily and her equine model were pretty comfortable with each other, which made the photoshoot go much more smoothly!
To Ride or Not to Ride?
If you plan on being on the horse for the photoshoot, consider what outfit you will wear. You’ll want to think about whether you will be getting a close-up portrait-style photo, a full-body photograph that captures the background, or both.
Of course, you’ll also want to think about how comfortable you will be in that outfit on top of a horse. More experienced riders will probably be able to handle more “complicated” outfits while still being comfortable on the horse, while less experienced riders may want to choose to wear something more simple.
If you’re going to go for a fancy route, such as wearing your prom dress, then a photo that allows the dress to show off is ideal. Semi-closeups like a forequarter focus can make the best of your horse’s magnificent mane (and yours too).
Adding details like this chalkboard idea by Emily Greenway are ideal for documenting things like like names, dates, and events right in the photo. You can also opt for adding some more friends to your photos such as bringing a favored pet or a sister to the photo.
If you’re not into riding photos, or perhaps you simply can’t ride, then you can also go for non-ridden photos with a horse.
Taking Photos From the Ground
For those who are a bit scared of a horse, adding the horse as part of the scenery with a more detailed closeup zoom photo can really create something special.
Or, if you’re not scared of horses but would still like to get some non-riding photos with your equine friend, there are many different poses and setups you can try. For example, you can sit next to your horse’s hooves, on a fence near them, or on a hay bale they are eating from. Horses are social animals, and if they already know you, they will most likely enjoy hanging out with you while the photographer is clicking away.
Horse photography doesn’t have to be stiff and formal either. Consider an alternative angle, making things creative and new.
You could even use an out-of-focus shot with your graduation cap and some cowgirl boots as a different take on a senior picture. If your horse can perform a few tricks, consider this another great photo idea. A horse that can lay down in the arena can offer some great posing potential.
Ask Your Photographer For More Ideas
Your photographer may have a few ideas of their own, but always remember that if it’s your horse being used, you know best what they can do in real life. Don’t expect your horses to suddenly rear on command when they’ve never before done that in their lives.
Horse Senior Photoshoot Dos and Don’ts
Your senior photos should be a genuine reflection of your high school life and what it means to be a senior heading out into the world. Your horse will be a part of that, and you should consider their level of training and comfort with the photographer. If your photographer decides to squat down behind you, for example, be sure your horse won’t suddenly rear and run off. If you need to give your photographer any “rules” for the day (such as, don’t stand directly behind the horse), be sure to do that ahead of time.
Don’t stress your horse out because the photos you take won’t be natural or show your personality. Do pretend like it’s just another day with your best friend.
Over the course of the photo session, you may notice your horse becoming agitated or tired. Be sure to give them many rest opportunities in between taking photographs.
Ask a family member to hold them while you do a few landscape shots or images with them in the background so the horse doesn’t become irritable and unsure.
In the course of taking senior photos with horses or with your own horse, you should always keep your plans realistic, train your horse before the photo day, and introduce them to the outfit you’ll be wearing.
It’s not like your horse regularly sees you in a large ballroom gown, so introduce them slowly. For more details and ideas on how to have a successful equine photo session, read my article on 10 Tips and Ideas for a Successful Horse Photoshoot.