Horse Photography shoot - ever been on one what happened? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 04-24-2015, 11:32 AM Thread Starter
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Horse Photography shoot - ever been on one what happened?

So I have the opportunity in a few weeks to do some equine portrait photography as part of a general tutorial and want to maximise what I learn as well as get a good feel for what happens.

Thus I'd be very interested to hear of your experiences from the "other side" of things. To hear how your photography shots went, what happened, how they were done. I'd very much also like to hear how it went for you; what you felt the photography did right at the time as well as, if anything, what went wrong - or what you felt was not suitable or even dangerous.

Any thoughts and views you have would be great; I'm not a horsey person so working with a situation where there is both owner/rider/trainer and a horse(s) is a very different thing for me and the more I know the better I can go into the situation and not get too "blind in the moment" (that is when one focuses on the camera alone and isn't aware enough to pay full attention to the situation - sometimes just knowing of a potential issue or factor can be the difference in noticing and avoiding before it even happens)
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post #2 of 9 Old 04-24-2015, 05:02 PM
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It depends what you and the customer are looking for.

In general, always remember that horses are flight animals. There are some horses that are incredibly safe, but some are spooky. Some horses are probably ok if you pull out a fan, a big soft box, or a reflector, but other's won't be, so better ask.

Also, whatever you do, wear closed toe shoes and avoid standing behind the horse. Don't run and also avoid sitting / lying down in the vicinity of the horse, always be prepared to step away if the horse spooks for some reason.

We once had a photographer ask whether it would be ok if he brought out a model for some fashion pictures with the horses. One of the other horse owners said ok, and they came with three people (the photographer, the model and the "manager"). The model was wearing high heels and a short skirt and was clearly uncomfortable in a pasture environment and a little bit scared of the horse. I think the poop was the straw that broke the camel's back ;). I doubt they were very happy with their pictures.

If you are shooting horses that excel in a particular discipline, I would let the rider/trainer point out what is important in that discipline. E.g. jumping photos are nicest in a certain phase of the jump, dressage photos are best when the horse is nice and round and steps under himself etc.

If you are just shooting portraits without a rider, a clean horse and attentive expression goes a long way. The owner/rider should probably be responsible for brushing or washing the horse before the shoot. Poop stains, straw and dreadlocks don't look all that good.
Along with portrait shots of the head, I would aim to take at least two full body shots - one straight from the side with the horse squared up and one from a 3/4 frontal angle.
Like with people portraits, horses have personalities that you want to pick up and reflect. For a naturally nice, calm horse that might be softer light and an emphasis on a nice, big, round eye. For a naturally spunky horse that might be harder light,
head held high(er), ears forward, eyes open and nostrils flared.

It often depends on the breed / discipline what is considered beautiful too. For a Western Pleasure QH it is custom to be shown in a blingy halter or Western tack; an Arabian will be shown in a fine show halter and sometimes with the muzzle and eyes oiled to look sleek and shiny. The owner/rider will be able to help you out there.

Again, the boundary between attentive and spooky can be fine for some horses, so one horse might need very little animation and another might need a little more. I remember one photographer using a mirror to get the horse to turn his head in the right direction.

That's all I can think of right now. Hope that helps.
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post #3 of 9 Old 04-24-2015, 05:38 PM
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Ask the owner any hard limits they have on what NOT to do. Ask the owner what they feel COMFORTABLE doing and ask the owner what they feel SAFE doing.

I had my senior pictures done with both of my horses (one was dead dead dead DEAD broke, the other was a spooky mess). The photographer just used a simple camera (no lighting or fans or anything but the natural setting) and asked me the above questions. She would ask me if I felt comfortable doing x or if it was okay if she did y and she respected my decisions and judgements.

That being said with my spooky horse she did less posed pictures and instead did something I fell in love with which was telling me to just interact with him how I normally did. She just took pictures as I interacted with him and they turned out beautiful!!!! In fact I think throughout the session we only did one posed picture and that was with me standing inbetween my two horses. The rest of the time she told me to just interact with my horses how I usually did and took pictures of that.

She was not a horse person either and after people saw her portfolio of those shots she got a lot of horse customers. I always recommend her because she listened to what I told her (including issues of safety and my own comfortability) and was very patient and willing to work around little mishaps.
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post #4 of 9 Old 04-24-2015, 07:18 PM Thread Starter
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My thanks both!

Regula - somevery good points and some I've already started such as with showjumping and starting to learn what people do/don't like as well as what generall looks pleasing both to others and to my own eye (and slowly learning some parts about conformity and such).
The mirror tip is interesting, I've heard of mints, clickers, whistles, etc.. as well to draw a horses attention and get their ears perking the right way.
Footware and dress sense are certainly sound bits of advice too. The point about the model being very un-horsey makes me both laugh and shake my head some at the surprise of trying to get a person who isn't horsey to model around a horse because I'd expect unless you want unease in every photo its going to be hard to get them to relax at all. Certainly not something I'd try (then again 99% of my photography tends to be with animals/bugs/flowers so people and models are not something I've really done much if anything with).

Incitatus - very sound points and certainly the points regarding letting the owner/rider/trainer lead the way with what the horse can/can't do etc... and one I'd certainly abide by. Heck I honestly wouldn't even have a choice, but I would try to remember to make a point of saying it (I'd assume any sane horse owner would only do what they feel is safe; but its still good, I think, to say it formally as well).
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post #5 of 9 Old 04-24-2015, 08:48 PM
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I took a photography class years ago , and one assignment I chose involved the horses, Each horse has a good side and bad side , like people, The angle of the sun is better to be backlit
Posing is difficult , a halter horse would be good for poses ! . I figure if i took 20 shots and got one or two that I liked it was doing good. The horses, yawn, flick their ears, move, get bored, blow snot, reach for the camera . Have fun and good luck.
And this was with the 35mm film cameras .
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post #6 of 9 Old 04-24-2015, 08:54 PM
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I do agree with listening to what the owner has to say.

I had my horse at our wedding. Our photographer was fantastic, but really not an animal kind of person, and most certainly not a horse person. He e.g. liked the idea of the wind picking up the dress. My horse was pretty nice, but I know some that would have freaked. At one point he also asked if we could let the horse run loose. Um... no :)
I told him that would be the last shot he'd be taking, cause after that we'd all run around trying to catch the horse again :)
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post #7 of 9 Old 04-26-2015, 01:21 PM Thread Starter
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stevenson - aye horses will do their own thing a lot - funny side to me is when I've done show-jumping the riders have terrible faces whilst horses tend to have it just right - posing is the flipside rider capable and horse totally nuts:P

Regula - having a husky I well understand that "yep you'll get 20seconds then you'll spend the rest of the day chasing" view to "freedom".
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post #8 of 9 Old 04-27-2015, 03:04 AM
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I think having suggestions is good, but they should depend your clients for sure. I've really only done one formal photoshoot with a friend of mine, but it was kind of awkward since I wasn't really sure what to do for most of them. They turned out pretty good, but that's mostly since my two horses are great for posing and we had a friend there to hold one of the horses if we were doing individual shots.
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post #9 of 9 Old 04-28-2015, 02:00 PM
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I've been an assistant on a horse photo shoot several times. The main thing I've noticed is that a lot of horses get bored quickly. They don't want to stand there and pose for hours on end. Have an idea of the key poses you would like to do and get those out of the way first before the horse gets too impatient.

Speaking of being an assistant, it's often good to have another person present who can help to make the horse a little more interested in the proceedings. My job was to shake a grain can, etc. to get those ears forward, pointing toward the photographer (ears forward = pretty picture).

Finally, keep in mind that some of your photography equipment may frighten a horse. Plastic bags have nothing on those large, round, white portable light reflectors in their capacity to freak out a horse -- especially if you allow the light reflector to snap into its full size in the horse's presence (luckily, I had the sense of mind not to do that). If you bring any equipment like that, the horse may be over-excited at first, slowly change to more curious interest (which is a good opportunity to get those ears!), and then will become desensitized and bored to it.

I hope these tips help. :)

"If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you are determined to learn, no one can stop you."
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