Over the last year and a half I've been growing my photography skills with hopes of doing photography for a living. Although I'm mainly learning portrait photography, I've played around with photographing horses. I can never seem to come up with really good results, though. Any tips on how to get a stunning horse portrait?
That's an excellent ambition! I have the hardest time photographing people but horses come pretty easily to me. How funny is that? Haha
I just take a bunch of pictures. I always take my camera when I'm going out to see Lacey (so about 3-4 times a week) and I generally fill up my memory card (200 pictures or so) about half of the time. A lot of people also seem to recommend just taking tons of pictures at one time, with the thinking that one picture has to be good out a 1000 (haha), but what's worked best for me is to take a medium amount of pictures at regular intervals.
I also keep track of when I have the best luck with my pictures and I take fewer pictures in weather conditions that I know are going to give me mediocre pictures. I find that if I stab myself in the foot with the weather conditions, I'm less motivated and then I start feeling kinda depressed about my pictures, which doesn't help my skills improve!
I also try to take a lot of pictures of the "same" thing, so that I capture all the different little micro expressions Lacey has. Then I play around with them on my computer: changing the contrast, cropping, that sort of thing.
I'm not a super duper amazing photographer yet but I've really improved over the last 6 months so I have hope! Haha
Do you ever do anything about posing your horse, or do you just let her do her thing?
Sometimes I do pose her. I've trained her to stay still for however long I need using the word "ho" (but it really could be any word) and some treats. I just pretended she was a big dog that I was training to "stay". I never say "ho" without releasing her with an "ok" and I try to use it as much as possible so she gets lots of practice. I mostly use "ho" when I want to get some nice head shots. Or, most recently, all my grass+poneh weird angle ones.
Most of the time though I just let her do her thing. I usually take her into the arena and free lunge her around me, then take pictures as she's moving. I got lucky with her, she enjoys being a model. Haha
If you do a search in the "Horse Photos" section of the forum, using "Lacey" as your search word, you will find TONS of picture threads full to the brim of pictures. And you'll be able to see how I've improved. Haha
I don't post most of my photography on here, but are you intending on taking conformation shots like you see of top stallions or more at liberty shots?
For conformation shots, try to make the horse as neat as possible. It really shows in this type of photo and make sure the lighting is good. Always try to have the sun behind you, unless you're aiming to have the light on a specific part of the horse. Try and get the horse's ears forward and the front feet square. In some breeds, like QH's its customary to have one hind leg forward to show a good hip. Don't get your shadow in the photo.
For at liberty shots, (like natural running around the paddock ones), the best tip I can be is to be an observer. Sit in the paddock (or stand :p) and just watch your horse. Have the camera ready, or just be constantly taking photos. Once again, make sure the sun is behind you, because generally this provides the best lighting. Once again, don't get your shadow in the photo, unless you actually want it in there. Sometimes the best shots just happen, so just take your time and you'll pick up what works for you, your horse and your camera.
Just make sure the sun is on your back and you're in focus and things should go smoothly!
Practice makes perfect. This is the first "Portrait" I ever did. Also remember the "Golden hour" Dusk and dawn basically. You don't want to take photos when the sun is at high noon. When the sun is perpendicular to your horse they come out best.
And a few years later of doing nothing but practicing, no formal training or research. Just fooling around.