How to take a great photo of your horse with six tips from a pro

How to take a great photo of your horse with six tips from a pro

Want to get your horse’s best side every time you take a photo? Make a note of these horsey photography tips from professional equine portrait photographer Sophie Callahan.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect Instagram shot to share with your followers or hoping to fill the empty frame in your front room, getting a good photo is as much about being able to set up a good shot as it is knowing how to use a camera. Follow these horsey photography tips to capture your horse in their best light – literally!

1. Don’t skip the prep

If you want your horse to truly look their best, it’s worth spending some time getting them ready for their big moment. A thorough groom and a bath will make a world of difference to your final shot – here are some tips for making your horse look show ring ready. If it’s summer, remember to apply some fly spray, too – this will prevent them from becoming agitated and make for a more relaxed shoot.

Tip: If you’re short on time or it’s too cold for bathing, just wash manes and tails, then brush through with some detangler.

2. Rope in some assistance

Horses aren’t the easiest subjects to direct and they’re not likely to stand and hold their pose on command either. Having a friend on hand to keep your horse from wandering off and to reposition their windswept forelock every so often will allow you to focus on getting to grips with your phone and setting up your shot.

3. Get acquainted with your phone

Get acquainted with your phone When it comes to having the tools for the job, most modern smartphones are more than capable of taking a stunning image. If you’re more comfortable with a phone than a digital camera, stick with it. It’s quicker and easier to edit photos on your phone rather than downloading from a camera, plus they also have some handy and easy-to-use features. Sophie recommends viewing your equine subject on the screen and tapping the screen before taking the picture. This will tell your phone where to focus and automatically adjust the exposure, which will determine how light or dark the picture is.

4. Position yourself

'Good light will make or break an image,' says Sophie, 'so always find some natural light rather than using your flash.' Set yourself up in an area that has plenty of natural light, but isn’t in direct sunlight. Try under a tree or in the shadow of a building. Aim to find a fairly clean background, too – think blue sky or a smart fence, rather than a parked-up horsebox and the muck heap.

Once you’ve chosen your area, 'avoid standing too close to your horse’, Sophie suggests. Taking a step back will allow you to get a more proportioned picture. If you find yourself wanting to zoom in, resist the temptation because it drastically reduces the quality of your image – if you want to get closer, take a step forward.

5. Get control of those ears

It goes without saying that you want your horse looking alert, with their ears forward in the photos, but it’s best to avoid using treats to get their attention. If you do, you’re likely to end up with them chewing mid-shot and you’ll struggle to keep them at a good distance away from you.

Instead, Sophie suggests filling a plastic bottle with stones to rattle, rustling a crisp packet or asking your assistant to play horse sounds on their phone. This should be enough to get your horse’s attention, but not too much that they’ll look startled. Ask your assistant to make their noise just behind you for the perfect engaged-with-the-camera angle. Some horses are more interested in movement, so if the sounds aren’t doing the trick, ask your assistant to throw something in the air behind you.

6. Time to tweak

While you might already be familiar with handy horsey apps, there are loads of image-editing apps that are worth a look, too. They allow you to edit your image manually by changing settings, such as brightness and contrast, but most will have free preset filters as well, like the ones you find on Instagram.

'Apps are fun to play around with,' says Sophie, 'and some even let you add light leaks and sun flare to your images!'

When to call in the professionals

Although these tips will almost certainly make a big difference to your final images, nothing beats the work of a true professional. If you want to be in the pictures with your horse or have visions of trying something a bit more artistic, research equine photographers and find one with an appealing style. They’ll have loads of ideas and will know how to work with what you’ve got to produce the perfect picture that you can treasure forever.

We’d love to see how you get on! Tag us and Sophie in your finished product and we might even get in touch to share your image in a future newsletter.