Tuesday, 2 April 2013

How to photograph horses ~ portraits and action shots

photo courtesy of Patrice Aguilar
Taking a good photo of a horse might sound easy. But there is plenty to consider before you step up and prepare to shoot these large beautiful creatures!

My suggestions are to first think what type of photo you want to achieve?
1~ Do you want to have a beautiful standing portrait?
2~ Are you after catching all the movement?
3~ Are you trying to take a photo with a human interacting with a horse?

My advice would be to browse some amazing galleries on google, flickr or 500px.com. Or just read some horse magazines and take a closer look of the photos!

Before you start snapping plan ahead! If you are after that perfect portrait get your horse brushed up and use a clean halter, a leather one, not a colored training one. Or if you want more natural look on the pasture take the halter off!

My first pointer is that you probably assume that a sunny day is the best time to take the photos but that is not the case! Bright sun creates plenty of shadows and the shine of the coat can be blown out.  So cloudy day is usually better, but remember that you still need some light!

Horse Portraits - Plan your background for a portrait photo. Avoid trees "growing" off the horses back or fences cutting through the body if you can. Plain grass or maybe a barn wall can be a good choice for the background. When you find a perfect spot think about your angle. Do you want a side shot? Do you want to take a photo in front of the horse? You might want to try both!

The tricky part, you need your horse to co-operate! You want him stand still and straight legged with his ears up and alert.

If you are after a portrait your camera should be set in aperture priority and use an f stop around an f/8 to f/11. Think about the perspective. You do not want to be too low or too high. A good rule is to have the camera in the same level as the horses eyes unless you are after a specific angle.

Action Photographs – Again, plan your background and avoid busy backgrounds and fences or horizons that cut through the animal if at all possible... as you see above it is not always possible in a setting like the sea.
Stand with the sun at your back and set your camera to shutter priority and to “Continuous focus” and track the running horse, then press the shutter button that is set in burst mode… You could set your shutter speed fast to freeze the action… or, for more visual effects, pan with the running horse so that your horse is in focus but the background and foreground has motion blur.

When photographing a running horse you should remember the rule of thirds and place the horse to the side of the image they are running from. Give the horse room in the frame to move to. It gives a more aesthetically pleasing photo.

I hope this gives you some things to think about the next time you go out to shoot horses. If you want to join us in the South of France this June; we are headed to photograph the Carmague white stallions seaside. You can find information on that workshop here.