Tips for Portraits With Your Horse

Tips for Portraits With Your Horse

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.


Be Prepared

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
Ears forward you silly horse!
Ears forward you silly horse!

My last advice is to share your amazing photos on your blog when you get the proofs back!

18 thoughts on “Tips for Portraits With Your Horse

  1. Great advice.. having done some human/equine portraits myself I would add this: bring a friend! Having someone squeak a dog toy, rustle a candy wrapper, or otherwise make a fool out of themselves behind the camera, helps get those picture-perfect horsey expressions and allows the human model to focus on relaxing and not whether or not their horse’s ears are forward!

    Love how your photos turned out though! Ditto on the wearing a short dress on a horse! Splendid!

  2. Cute pictures!! I love the one with the feet especially.

    And good tips. Definitely finding a horse photographer is important, not just someone who is familiar with horses, but also with actually taking pictures of them. I’ve only had friends take pictures of me with the horses – they turned out well, but I had to direct every shot and a lot of times there were pics that could have been great if only the person behind the camera had a better idea of what they were doing 😉

    I also wore a dress in my last photo shoot, but it was a maxi dress and even then it was a bit iffy, lol. I would say to choose a dress that isn’t close fitting but more “flowy” so that it doesn’t ride up.

  3. When the hubs and I had our engagement session, I picked a photographer that specialized in people. We incorporated Archie in a few of the photos, because D proposed in his stall. My photog had never shot horses before, so while the photos are beautiful and I absolutely treasure them, she had no concept of “ears”. 🙂 It worked out okay, though. One of my favorite shots is of me looking up at him and he’s facing forward. If he’d had perked ears, the interaction would have solely been one-sided. As it stands, though, one ear is cocked in my direction as though he’s listening.

    I love these photos! And I had the same “dress” issue a few years back for holiday photos. I tried to ride side saddle and actually had to have someone give me a lead. Yours look classy! I wouldn’t have noticed.

  4. If you’re actually paying money for a photoshoot, I’d drag a friend out in advance and do a little practice. Don’t expect to get anything fabulous (that’s why you’re paying someone else), but it will give you a chance to get comfortable in front of the camera and coordinate colors and looks for your horse.

    😉 From someone who’s far from a model, but ends up spending a lot of time in front of the camera.

  5. I just got portraits done yesterday!! So excited to get them. Yours look wonderful!!! I totally agree about being prepared. I wish I had thought ahead about what kind of pictures I wanted instead of flying by the seat of my pants, lol. Afterwards I was like “oh wouldn’t it have been cool if I did….” 🙂

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m doing engagement photos at the barn (hopefully) this week and I’ve been stressing over all the details! Hopefully fuzzy Miles looks okay…

  7. If he is fuzzy and dark in these pictures, then fuzzy and dark is sexy lol. He looks great! I love the photos! Especially that last one. I did the same thing to Chrome one time. It makes for great photos. 😀

    I love all of the tips! Thanks for sharing!

  8. This is sooooooo true! We did family pictures and I let the photographer know that we would be doing it at the barn and include my horse and she was totally on board, but the pictures with Henry are no bueno! ha!

  9. I really hope people do not drug their horses for this…my god.

    I am lucky enough to have a border that is a phenominal photographer. She makes getting pics super easy. Yours are lovely!

  10. Great photos! I think I might take the plunge next summer and get a photographer out here to take some pics of Cartman and I!

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