Equine Photography Tips I – Your Camera

Equine Photography Tips I – Your Camera

I post a lot of pictures on this blog, and often get comments asking questions about what kind of camera that I use and what settings, etc.  Equine photography is something that I really enjoy doing now as a hobby, although I did briefly shoot events and private sessions professionally in North Carolina.

The trek from newbie with a low level digital SLR (single lens reflex) to a competent local pro photographerwasn’t quick or easy.  I’m also not saying I’m the best photographer (I’m not) or even an above average pro (also, not) but I was able to shoot events and portraits in my area at local and schooling shows, made some money, and learned a ton.  Since there seems to be some interest in the topic, I wanted to share what I learned with you.

Buy the Best Body and Lens You Can Afford

An expensive camera does not make a good picture, but you can’t make a good picture without a decent camera.  You’re just not going to get the timing, depth of field, and flexibility that the pros need with a point and shoot camera.  You need a digital SLR, and you need a good lens for horses.


The Canon 60D is still on more of the amateur end of the Canon Digital SLR scale, but it is my 2nd body and a big upgrade for me.  It’s not a cheap piece of equipment, so for someone just embarking into the world of photography I would recommend one of the Canon Digital Rebel cameras.  For years and years I shot the Rebel XT, and it was a solid little camera that served me well.  You can also pick up a body for around $200-$300 these days, which is an attractive price.

Arguably almost more important than the body is the lens that you use.  Ask any major equine photographer and they will tell you a 70-200mm f2.8 is the lens they use 80-90% of the time, and I will go even further and say that when I shoot horses I do not use any other lens.


They’re also fucking expense.  Excuse the french, but yeah… multiple car payments.  The only reason I could justify the purchase for mine was a) I chose Sigma instead of Canon (Sigma is a slightly cheaper brand), b) I bought mine used and c) I was making money shooting photos at the time.

If you want to really dive into the deep end of photography – get this lens.  The reason being is that the lens has both the zoom you need for shooting horses and the settings to shoot indoor arenas and other low light situations without having to use artificial lighting. I recommend looking at BH Photo Video when shopping for a used camera or lens.  They are total pros, check over all their equipment, and sell with a guarantee.  You won’t get that same kind of dependability on ebay.


Next post I’ll explain what I know about settings and how I manipulate them for shooting horses in different situations.  Also, let me know if this is boring or helpful because sometimes I can’t tell the difference myself 🙂  If you have any questions about settings ask here in the comments and I will do my best to answer them in the next post!


28 thoughts on “Equine Photography Tips I – Your Camera

  1. Nice! I have a 70-200 mm lens, but doesn’t open as wide as 2.8 (OMG I wish!), and so I rarely use it. Then again I rarely shoot indoor action shots, most of any horse-in-action type stuff I do has been in an outdoor arena where I can follow the horses on foot. I am in love with my Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lens though for portrait work, it’s practically all I use. And after upgrading my body I can’t wait to see how fast it is!

    I’d be interested to hear how you created that last shot. I have a request for a similar image for my next portrait session and have seen a few ways of doing it, but what worked for you? Look forward to your next post!

    1. Ooo, good idea! I’ve been wanting to take some of Simon so I can do a post on the whole process 🙂 In the meantime, if you want to know for your client shoot me an email and I’ll explain it to you. It’s actually pretty damn simple.

  2. Camera envy. Heck, lens envy. I’m still shooting on a Canon 40D (which I do love) that was a steal for its barely used condition. I’m a little on the dry front for good lenses though. It keeps coming down to a new lens or tuition money….making the responsible decision sucks.

    1. I know what you mean. There are a few lenses out there right now that I’d loooooove to own, but just can’t justify the purchase to myself. If you ever have a big event or outing you want to use a nice lens for, you can also rent them. It’s not super cheap, but a great way to play with extremely high quality glass. Also, I used to yearn for a 40D. That is a good camera!

  3. The problem I have with this fancy camera jargon is that you start using numbers, and then numbers make me think of math, and then my brain just explodes. But maybe one day I’ll learn to use my little $300 Sony camera on a setting other than automatic. Maybe.

    1. You can get a lot of good pictures with those too! I’ll admit I’m not as comfortable with the settings on a point and shoot as I am with a DSLR, but I’ll do my best in the next post to go over setting stuff.

    2. Will a 70-200 f4 work for outdoor shows? I ask since my DX Nikon just crashed and I am buying an FX plus lens. Save money now, pay later with lens upgrade perhaps.

  4. I covet the 70-200 like no one’s business. I have a small (very small) client base for my photography, but I can’t expand until I have this lens. I can eek a decent shoot out of the 70-300 f3.5-5.6 I have, but it’s nothing like the 70-200…I’ve rented that for some shows and higher end shoots and I cry every time I pack it back up to send back to the rental place!

  5. I have a 70-200 2.8f lens … that is only for use with a 35mm body. Awww snap. Still a lovely lens, and I like to shoot with it. Unfortunately, film is prohibitively expensive. Right now I’m rocking a 50mm 1.8f, and I love it. To death. The only thing that could improve it is if its autofocus was compatible with my camera body.

    Sigh. Only millionaires can have everything, I guess. Better get back to work.

    1. Oh man, I hate that they don’t work with digital bodies. I also have the 50mm f1.8 lens and loooooooooove it! That’s my go to for shooting anything inside my house 🙂 Great lens!

  6. OMG, Lauren! That photo of the chestnut with the black background is absolutely breath taking! I love looking at beautiful pictures, and I love it when I get lucky with a cute shot with my simple point and shoot camera, but I just don’t have the extra time to learn one more thing. I wish I could make the time, but I know my heart is not in it. That being said, please share more as I might get some small tips to help improve what I can shoot with my little Canon. I think it’s interesting!

  7. Love my 60D! I did splurge on the Canon 70-200 f2.8 and I agree it is THE go to lens for shooting horses, I rarely use anything else 🙂

  8. This is super helpful! I take pictures for my blog with my point-and-shoot and they inevitably look sloppy, and I’ve always wondered where to start if I want to improve in that area. Thanks for this post and I’m looking forward to future editions! Your pictures are beautiful!

  9. I am actually looking at the Canon 60D for Christmas. It comes with the 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS UD Standard Zoom Lens which I am super excited about. It isnt nearly as good as the one you have, but its a definite upgrade from the Canon Powershot IS500 that I currently have. Love your pictures!!!!

  10. I would love to be able to take nice pictures. I would also love it if I had nice pictures of myself riding, but to do that, I would actually need people around watching me ride (preferably not random strangers).

  11. Fucking expensive might be an understatement… I have the AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f2.8 and I can’t express how thankful I am that my parents are so supportive! I wouldn’t think of using anything else for horse photos! Great post 🙂

  12. Lauren – I recently stumbled upon this site. My wife and daughters are eventers, and as the odd “horsehubby/horsedad” out, I’ve started photographing their events and lessons. I’m at a basic level, starting last year with a SL1 and the kit 75-300mm lens. After 8.9K photos I’m recognizing the difference in sharpness/clarity when comparing my photos with other photographers. Recently, I shot a lesson indoors, dark (some overhead lights were out) and EXTREMELY dusty. Bottom line, I ended up with a lot of noise that could not be eliminated. If you don’t mind, you are welcome to take a look at my photos (www.facebook.com/PatrickMcK), I would appreciate any comments. A friend loaned me his Sigma 120-300mm lens that night. I tried your settings for indoors (f2.8-f4; ISO 6400; 1/200-1/250

  13. Hi Lauren, I hear it all over that the 70-200 2.8 is the way to go. I am wondering if anyone has used it for an all day event like a horse show? The weight of that beast is the only thing slowing me down on getting one for that purpose. I may have to just rent and try it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.