So, you want to get professional photos taken with your horse huh? Do it. Do it yesterday. I regret nothing.
That being said, I do have some advice that might help you… or not. Who knows. I’m going to tell you anyway so I can share more pretty photos.
Do your homework
Find a good photographer. Cheap isn’t usually best, but there are some exceptions. I chose Anneke Paterson because I was lucky enough to know her personally and watch her work over the past year. I liked her creative eye, and her unique approach to portraits – something I’m bad at when I shoot portraits.
If you don’t know any photographers, hit up the internet. The Equine Photographer’s Network is a great place to start if you specifically want equine centered photos, but there are a lot of pet portrait photographers that are also good at getting special moments with you and your horse. My advice is to stick to equine/pet photography land, because they have the eye for the moments that will make you happiest.
A good photographer is a busy person, so book in advance. I probably waited about two to three weeks too late in the year for perfection, because Simon was starting to get fuzzy and darker when these were taken. You know your horse best though, so pick the time of year when he looks the best to you!
Also browse galleries of equine portraits to get some ideas of shots you’d like to have. Sure, your photographer will have some ideas too, but you can’t be upset if you didn’t get X shot if you didn’t tell then you wanted that shot to begin with! I searched “equine portraits” and “equine engagement photos’ to get some ideas… like this feet shot!
The Day Of the Shoot
Most likely your photos will be scheduled for late afternoon when the light is best, so you’ll most likely have plenty of time to get ready.
Bathe your horse and bathe him well. Show sheen the shit out of him. Don’t worry about not doing the saddle area so your saddle won’t slip off… you won’t be grand prix jumping today – make that mofo shiny however you care to! If you are braiding (I did), do not put show sheen on the mane. Don’t even wash it well. When I braid, all I do is comb it out, wet it down, and get to braiding.
Grooming is all I did to get my actual horse ready. If Simon were wilder, I may have lunged him but I advise you do not Ace or otherwise drug your horse. Drugs may keep them calm when you’re walking around bareback, but it will also make their privates drop and make for dull expressions.
Get whatever tack or items you’re using in the shoot ready ahead of time. Polished and good to go. I did all the photos with his bridle (and some with no bridle), but if he had a nice halter I would have swapped to that for some for a “costume change.” As it stands, his halter is very beat up so we just stuck to the bridle. If your horse does multiple disciplines, switch his bridle up for some variety!
As for your outfit, let me give you a little advice: knee length dresses are a bit risque when you’re sitting astride on your horse. Ask me how I know. I had to do some creative holding/covering to be able to show these to you! If you want to ride for your shots, do a longer dress or jeans. I would have picked a different outfit if I thought of this in advance.
1… 2… 3… Smile!
Your photographer is going to be your biggest help here, because it’s their job! My best advice is the following:
- Relax – these are just pictures. You’re not a professional model. There’s no pressure.
- Don’t always look at the camera. Look at your horse and/or your loved one too!
- Bring a slobber cloth/sponge for drool. Horse slobber may be sexy for dressage, but not for photos.
- Try out different locations. Even if you think your farm looks the same from one corner to the other, the camera does not.
- Have fun! Don’t be afraid to laugh or be silly
My last advice is to share your amazing photos on your blog when you get the proofs back!