Hooray! You have book a photo session for your horse and the countdown is on.
I know for a lot of people, the idea of having their photo taken can be daunting! Let me put your mind at ease, I have done this for quite a while now, I will be there to guide you through the session and talk you through every step. Before you start worrying about - what to wear, how to pose, what if your horse isn't on his/her best behaviour, here are my top tips to prepare yourself and your horse for your upcoming photo session.
The perfect location
Most of my photo sessions take place on and around the livery yard grounds. Of course, having stunning scenery or a wooded area close by, can be a lovely addition to your photo session, but it's most definitely not essential to achieve gorgeous photos of you and your four-legged friend.
Some locations that work well, include fields (ideally freshly poo picked), rural lanes, crop fields, and driveways. If you're interested in capturing some black background horse portraits all we need is the use of a barn, stable, field shelter or indoor school with access to lighting from the outside.
I have never arrived at a photo session and not been able to find suitable locations. When I arrive at your yard, we will have a little wander around and decide which locations will work best.
If you would like to venture out and away from your yard, I am also more than happy to meet you and your horse at the beach, country estates (with permission), woods or hills, or any other location that means something to you.
Preparing your horse for your session
From my perspective, as a photographer, this is the most important part. Treat the photo session like a competition and make sure your horse is looking his or her best. Give your horse a good groom before the session and if possible, perhaps even bath them the day before, especially if your horse is grey, coloured or has white legs.
Plaiting. I am often asked whether to plait or not, that is completely your choice and preference. Some owners choose to plait their horses mane, others don't. It depends on the look you prefer.
What tack to use? My go-to is a lovely leather headcollar or a bridle. The choice is yours! A clean nylon headcollar and lead rope works as well, but best to stick with neutral tones and stay away from bright colours. If you feel you might need bit more control, I would recommend to put a bridle on. Safety first!
If you want to do ridden photos and wish to use a saddle, dig out one a smart numnah and perhaps a set of matching bandages or boots. Whatever tack you choose to use during your photo session, make sure it's as sparkly clean as your horse, clean the bit, wipe down leather and if you are using a nylon headcollar and rope, wash them beforehand.
Not related to your horse, but something to keep in mind, if you would like pictures with a black background. Make sure the end of the barn aisle/stable is clean and free of distractions like blankets and halters hanging on stall doors, buckets, shavings on the floor, etc. This will save time during the session and keep your photos looking flawless.
What to wear
Wear something you feel comfortable in! Don't force yourself to wear something that doesn't feel right. The last thing you want is to look back at your photos and regret your outfit choice.
Depending on the duration of the photo session, you might want to think of some outfit changes. For example, jeans and t-shirt, a summer dress (if the weather is on our side) or country style outfit. I would recommend to stay away from bright colours, busy pattern and very baggy clothing, as these do not photograph well. Ultimately, it's up to you, but remember, being around horses can be messy, make sure you choose something that you don't mind getting a little grubby.
When riding your horse, I highly recommend the use of a hat and suitable riding shoes or boots.
Feed before your session
If your session is scheduled during normal feeding times, go ahead and give your horse a small feed before we start, in order to keep everyone happy! He/She can get the rest of their feed as a treat after the session.
Exercise your horse
If your horse has loads of energy, some light exercise may be beneficial to take the edge off, or make sure your horse has had plenty of turnout time so he/she will be nice and relaxed for the photo session. If you have a very laid back horse this most likely isn’t necessary, but you know your horse better than anyone so you make the call.
Bring a friend
It’s a good idea to have someone on hand to help out if needed. See if you can find a friend, family member or another livery willing to give us a hand. The first benefit is that having a familiar face at the session will help you to relax in front of the lens, the second benefit is that they can help with handling and positioning your horse.
Oh, and it also takes all sorts of weird and hilarious techniques to get a horses attention sometimes, so it’s brilliant fun for getting your friend to do funny things in the name of photography!
Health and Safety
For this point, I will rely on you. You know your horse and his/her behaviour best! Let me know if at any point you feel uncomfortable or think your horse might get upset.
Relax and enjoy
Most importantly relax and enjoy the experience! Sometimes we can get a little caught up overthinking. Don't worry if your horse isn't on his or her best behaviour, the more you worry and stress about it, the more your horse will react to your energy. Relax and go with the flow - I’ll be there to give you guidance, pointers and suggestions for poses. Together we will create gorgeous images of you and your horse, for you to treasure forever.
I hope you enjoyed looking through my equine photography session guide. If you have any other questions, please let me know. I am always here to help.
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