By Paige Gironimi of Seeing Spots Photography
Originally appeared in the April 2022 edition of the Appaloosa News Magazine.
We all know horses can be difficult and unpredictable at times and getting everything to cooperate can feel overwhelming. Wouldn’t it be great if we knew how to prepare for your photo experience so it can be as close to perfect as possible? Here are three tips on how to make your equestrian portrait session the best it can be by being prepared and ready for challenges that may arise and make for a happy photographer!
Timing for a photoshoot is incredibly important and we want to make the most of the time we have with our photographers.
We all want those magical sunset or sunrise photos so allowing your photographer to work their magic within the time allotted will make the most of your investment. Light is incredibly important to a successful photoshoot and most photographers try to book during the best light of the day which is around sunrise and sunset.
Light is incredibly important to a successful photoshoot and most photographers try to book during the best light of the day which is around sunrise and sunset.
These specific times go very quickly, and it can be easy to miss. The best way to avoid this is to be fully prepared exactly at or even before your booked photoshoot time. This means: having your horse fully cleaned, prepped, and dry as well as being dressed in your chosen outfit and having a backup outfit ready.
Don’t forget to prepare the areas you plan to shoot in as well. This can include moving any horses from a pasture you wish to shoot in, sweeping your barn aisle for black backgrounds, trimming back plants from areas that may be seen in the photos, or even dragging an arena. I often see people who will pull their horse straight from the pasture into their photoshoot or to be groomed after the photographer arrives. This can take unnecessary time at the beginning of your shoot and doesn’t always result in a photo ready horse.
I firmly believe that when you invest in something like professional photos, you should prepare like you’re going to a show several hours beforehand. Fully wash, brush, clip, trim, and even braid your horses! Don’t forget to clean your tack, bits, or boots either. And of course, make sure you include the show sheen!
Eliminating as many clean up problems as possible before your session will save your photographer more time in the editing process and allow you to step straight in front of the camera once they arrive.
Even the most calm and compliant horses can turn into anxious beasts during a shoot.
Practice Makes Perfect
The worst time to see if your horse is comfortable taking photos is during the shoot.
Even the most calm and compliant horses can turn into anxious beasts during a shoot. While we can never truly predict our horse’s behavior, having more time and exposure under their belt is always a huge plus.
At least a week before your session, make sure your horse is desensitized to anything they may be exposed to during your session. Have a practice photoshoot with a friend and a cell phone camera. This could include being in areas where you may take your photos, standing still for a long period of time, getting their ears up, placing their feet square, and of course, testing your wardrobe!
If you plan to wear a big hat, flowing dress, or any other piece of clothing that has the potential to spook, introduce it to them early so they have time to be comfortable around it. I’ve seen sessions where the client wants to take photos riding their horse in a long dress, but the horse hasn’t been properly prepared and spooks at the flowing fabric.
Our goal as photographers is to keep our clients and their horses safe and having fun during their shoot. To make sure the photoshoot stays a fun and safe environment, it’s very important to go over these things before the photographer ever arrives so you and your horse are confident when it’s time to shoot. Be sure to get your trainer involved as well if needed.
Relax and Have Fun!
We all want happy horses and faces in our photos so taking the little extra time to make you and your horse comfortable is extremely important.
Being in front of the camera isn’t always a comfortable experience for everyone, including your horse. You don’t want to look stiff or nervous in your photos so the best way to do that is take some time to relax and get the jitters out.
Let your horse lunge for a few minutes before your session, but not enough to make them sweaty or dirty. Another idea could be to work them earlier in the day during a ride, so they are nice and tired by when it’s time to shoot. We want their mind and body to be as calm and cooperative as possible during the session to help prevent any anxious behavior.
Another way you can avoid grumpy or anxious horses is to make sure you don’t schedule your session around their mealtime. Horses are usually on a set schedule, so they know when it’s time for dinner. Thinking they may be missing a bucket full of grain while you’re out making them stand still can make even the calmest horse get a little restless. Try not to schedule around their mealtime or even feed them before the session begins.
If you, yourself, are nervous, remember that your photographer is there to help create a welcoming space as well as direct you into all your poses. Trust your photographer!
Our goal is to have fun and let you relax while we handle all the details of the shot. We all want happy horses and faces in our photos so taking the little extra time to make you and your horse comfortable is extremely important. After all, we are here to have fun and create lasting memories.