Top tips for your equine portrait session

by Lotte Simons
5th June 2018

You’ve spent hours grooming, preening and making sure everything looks spot on. We walk to our first location you turn to face the camera and wonder “…..what do I do now?” You’re not alone, most people are uncertain how to behave infront of a camera and there is something about having a lens pointed in your direction that suddenly has you feeling like you need to be a completely different person. Trust me, been there, done that. I have been a stand in model on photoshoots and even when I am taking my own portrait, I still feel like a buffoon the other side of the camera! However the benefit of having your horse with you is that it gives you something else to focus on rather than feeling totally vulnerable with the focus solely on you. This does present its own challenges though so here are a few pointers to overcoming them and my top tips to take onboard for your equine portrait session to run a little smoother.

Allow The Horse Freedom To Move

We have all heard the saying “Horses are poetry in motion” and I have to agree, I think when they are captured mid movement and openly expressing themselves it results in a more dynamic scene and creates much more interesting imagery. So when they get a bit fidgety and want to start moving around I often encourage clients to allow the horse a bit more space or to walk a circle around them and bring them back into position. These moments in-between the staged portraits can actually make for really lovely relaxed shots and adds some variety to your photo set.

The other benefit is that rather than fighting with your horse and creating tension, it help to maintain a more relaxed atmosphere. If there is tension between the pair of you or any stress it will show itself in the photos, which we really want to avoid!

Interact Naturally

Usually by interacting with your horse as you would naturally and in a way that feels the most comfortable we will find the best posing ideas. More to the point, it will hardly feel like you are posing at all, simply having a quiet moment with your horse. This is also when the really beautiful and raw moments start to happen. As you let your guard down a little and your horse relaxes into the strange situation you’ve dragged them into, I can begin to photograph the real energy that exists between you both. By being empathetic to your horse and adapting our ideas to what they present us with in that moment we can maintain a really calm and enjoyable experience for you both and produce photos that capture the real essence of your relationship rather than images that feel forced.

Have Someone On Hand To Help

It’s always a good idea to have someone on hand to help out if needed. See if you can find a friend, family member or another livery willing to give you an hour of their time. The first benefit is that having a familiar face on set will help you to relax and overcome any anxiety you have about being in front of the lens, the second benefit is that they can help with handling and positioning your horse in the shot. This opens up the number of potential compositions that can be created if you are no longer attached to the end of a leadrope.

I am also really appreciative of an extra pair of hands and often rope in spare bodies to hold reflectors and lighting equipment for me. I’m yet to find anyone who isn’t keen to get involved and learn a few basics about photography in the process so I am sure there will be someone you won’t need to bribe too heavily to assist.

Oh, also, it takes all sorts of weird and hilarious techniques to get a horses attention sometimes so it’s brilliant fun for getting your friend to do ridiculous things in the name of photography! Though you might owe them a beer afterwards!

Above All…

I think the key thing is to relax and enjoy the experience! Sometimes we can get a little caught up overthinking all scenarios in our ambition for to achieve “perfection” only to find the reality we are presented with is often totally out of our control and far from how we pictured it. More often than not, it’s the spontaneous moments that are the most spectacular and the favourite picks with clients. Also remember you’re not stood alone, i’ll give you guidance and pointers and suggestions for poses, plus I promise you I am 10x goofier behind the camera than you could ever be in front! Always remember photoshoots are about the experience and enjoying yourself and the time with your horse on the day as well as creating those beautiful lasting photographs.

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