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Linda's Top Ten Photography Tips

from Linda VavRosky, an award winning and published photographer
These are tips for still photography, though I am sure most of this applies to doing video also.

Updated! March 30th, 2010

1). KNOW your you want conformation shots? candid shots? action shots? when you head out with your camera, think about your goal here, it will make a big difference.  We frequently shoot action first, then when the horse is settled down a bit, do the conformation shots. Often getting your horse to stand quietly for conformation shots, can be tough, if he has lots of energy to burn. For SALE photos a movement shot, a head shot and a conformation shot are the basics....Young horses can be shown in hand , at liberty or with humans....riding horses already started under saddle should be ALWAYS shown under saddle, in one or more pics. IF your horse has a purpose ( other than the common curly, who is shown eating )  SHOW IT OFF !!! Taking the time to do a few candid shots of your own horse can be VERY rewarding...pick late winter to best photograph curls,  summer to get a sleek/crushed velvet look.

2). KNOW your target audience.....are you a breeder or wanting to sell a horse, or just wanting nice photos of your horse to show off to friends? Difference disciplines require different horses should be standing square for conformation shots,  sport horses should be standing with all four legs seen. KNOW what your audience and what they consider"normal" for that disipline, otherwise your photo will not get any attention. Here is an example of a shot of a dressage horse...everything in this photo says "dressage."

3). MAKE a plan....what kind of shots are we doing today?  is there proper lighting? too much sun? cloudy days are best, early morning ( and I mean early ----5 am in the summer ) light is VERY good, and so is evening light. Professionals often start outside shots  right as dawn is breaking.  If you shoot in the afternoon, and there is very bright sun, put your horse in the shade, it also may trigger your flash, but that is OK. This trick really does work!  ALSO, lots of books on photography composition out there, check your library if you don't want to buy. Surf the internet and see what pics you like, try and copy the composition of the shot.

Photo taken in the Morning Photo taken in the Evening

4). KNOW your equipment.....what will your camera do?  Can you do lots of zooming? Try different angles, most of my pics are shot from low, either me lying on the ground, or sitting down on the ground. ESPECIALLY true for good foal pics. If you do lots of zooming, remember to leave enough extra space to crop your photo to 2400 X 3000 pixs. This size will give you an 8 X 10 photo. You are much safer to leave a little extra, than take the chance of not being able to print out the whole pic, should you get something spectacular!

Kallie & Sage were above me. Shot from a low angle, sitting on the ground.

5). CLEAN your horse/horse/nicely dress your human subjects....this makes a HUGE amount of impact for a good photo. Most photo shoots around here are about 2-3 hours...we CLEAN our horse, trim what is appropriate for our goal, and then go at it. Once you get your horse(s) clean and dry, dress your human in a color that matches, or at the least, does not distract....( use the basics folks use to match saddle blankets to their horse ).  My high school gal helper usually calls me right before the shoot, to see what she should bring to wear.

6).  WATCH your background.....nothing worse than getting that GREAT shot, with a horrible background. Look before you shoot, many times, you don't notice things until the shot is done. If possible MOVE stuff out of the way, also trim up the weeds, make things tidy, your shots will show it.  Sometimes a messy background is good. Horse show crowds....things that should be in horse pics are OK, but most photos simply look best without a messy background. background.... Look for eye appealing contrast, a light colored horse photographs best on dark or green background, a dark horse, on green or light colored background. You can avoid a lot of distracting backgrounds if you MOVE your feet...something that is lurking when you stand in one spot, may be completely invisible if you take a step or two to one side or the other. As I look back over some of my older photos..I wonder WHY did I not see that and MOVE my feet..;-)

7).  CANDID shots are favorites for many people. Keep the camera rolling, to see what kind of candids you can get. Keep your camera going long after the action are a few pics that I got as a result of keeping the camera on, and my eyes open!   Also,  especially in candids...go for the unusual. I originally tried to do the book shot with 3 foals..but the other 2 wandered off and Hattie was left to investigate what Darryl was doing..the result? of my all time favorite shots!

8).  PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE,  with todays digital, you can shoot over and over again, learn what looks good, and how to shoot it.  LEARN to pan, your horse will be in focus, and the background will be blurred, you can pan with any camera. practice and learn what is right. Since I read "how" to do horse headshots in my favorite book of all time...Charles Mann - "Photographing and Videoing Horses Explained" I learned that horse heads should be shot with either both eyes visible...or the hint of the other eye ( sometimes just the eyebrow/eyelash ) I found that the profiles I sometimes see now, just stiff and un real to me...both eyes ( or part of both eyes ) makes the personality in the horse come alive. Here is one example of the "hint of both eyes.

9).  Wait. Patience pays off...esp with horses...wait for the ears...eventually they will come forward...wait for the right look. I waited a long time for Legacy to step into the right spot, when I was doing shots of my herd by the pond....along all time favorite shot!   The position of her ears actually add to this, because her and her sire both are known for their loose ears..that oozes confidence in many situations..

10).  ONLY put really nice shots out for folks to see,  life is unpredictable, and you never know when you might need to part with your lifelong friend.  If folks have already seen shot after shot of outstanding pics, that horse may be easier to place....think about it ! only choose the photos with a NICE expression. Airplane ears, closed eyes, etc. make your horse look less than interesting.

In a world of millions of horses/farms/ads...a stunning, eye catching photo of your horse can greatly help you to a successful horse business or simply an award winning portrait of your equine best friend!



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