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5 Photography Tips for Working with Horses and People

Author: Libby - Printique by Adorama

I was recently contacted to photograph a friend’s daughter with her horse.  Not having worked with horses much, I asked some of our members for some advice, did some research and I thought I would share those tips with everyone. These tips are more focused on interacting and communicating with the horse as well as getting the best results from the horse and its rider. I can honestly say, these tips work and they added to a wonderful first time experience working with equine.
1. Setting the Stage
Get there early while the horse is being groomed. Let the horse get comfortable with your presence and have your camera around your neck. Take a few pictures of the horse being groomed and let everyone (horse and rider included) do their routine in a relaxed manner. Make sure when the horse is being prepped that a leather halter is chosen. Sometimes the nylon halters are quite colorful and bold. You want the brightest part of the portrait to be your subjects, not what they are wearing.

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2. There’s an App for That
In order to get the horse’s attention, you’ll need a few tricks. The first thing I did was download an app of horse sounds. As soon as I had my subjects in place, I had my assistant place the phone just above my lens and then hit the sound. The horse immediately recognized the sound perked its ears and eyes right towards my camera. It’s very important to get the horse’s ears standing up straight and pointed in your direction. This shows attention and interest. I found this great article on how to read the signals horses give you. Check it out HERE.
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The other trick is to bring treats. If I wanted the horse to nuzzle with the rider, I would put treats in certain spots to make it look like there was interaction. If you look closely, you can see the treats in the girl’s lap.

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3.  Get the Jitters Out
Like most animals, a horse’s attention is quite short. I noticed I could get a few great shots and then the horse needed to be diverted as it would get agitated staying in one position for too long. So the rider would take the horse on a short walk to get some energy out. The rider would circle the horse around and bring it back to the same position we had before so I could continue to get my images without having to adjust my camera settings.
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4. Get it Right
Unlike a lot of other animals, you’ll need to be attentive to how you measure up to the horse. You should hold the camera at about the height of the chest of the horse. You’ll notice if you go too far down the legs look longer. If you go too far up the legs look shorter. Keep it in the right perspective.
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5. Interaction
At the end of the session, let everyone relax. Let the horse and rider interact naturally with no direction from the photographer. It may not be a perfect shot, but sometimes it speaks volumes more than the posed shots.

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 -Written and photographed by Libby for Adoramapix