If there’s one thing horse people love almost as much as their horses, it’s photos of them. We at Saddle & Bridle love photos too. Here are a few tips to get the best shots of your favorite equine.
1. Consider your background (and subject.) A good photo starts with a good background and a clean horse. Photoshop can only fix so much, so choosing the right location (with a background free of clutter) and starting with a well-groomed horse is the key to starting off on the right foot.
2. Plan ahead. If you’re setting up a photo shoot at home, have a game plan; knowing the shots you want to capture ahead of time makes the experience go faster and minimizes the chance of your horse becoming irritable and difficult to deal with. You’ll also want to have other people on hand to help you get the horse’s ears up and wipe away slobber. Fly spray isn’t a bad idea, either.
3. Horses move. It’s a fact: you can never get a horse to stay perfectly still. Even if you can get their feet to stop moving long enough to press the button on your camera, they can swing their head around at the last minute or flick their ears back at just the wrong time. Delays on digital cameras make this experience doubly frustrating, but there are some settings that can make the camera less likely to capture this blur of motion. If you’re outside with good lighting, try putting your ISO down to its lowest setting and your shutter speed up fairly high.
4. About the action. For saddle seat horses, most action shots are taken at the trot. You’ll want to take the photo when the horse’s far front leg is at the highest point of its flight. If you have good lighting (such as a bright day in an outdoor arena) leave your ISO settings down around the 200 range. If the lighting is bad, such as the lighting at some indoor shows, you’ll want the ISO up higher. Additionally, most cameras have an exposure compensation setting, which can help you get the best shot. For any action shot, no matter the lighting, you’ll always want the shutter speed fairly high.
5. Think before you zoom. Zoom lenses can be useful, but be mindful that it’s sometimes better to get physically close to your subject. Stepping back and using your zoom lens will make it easier to get your subject in focus and a blurred background, but if you want the subject and complete background details, consider using the original zoom – your feet!
Good luck, and happy photo taking!