“This session features “A Girl & Her Horse” – part of my class of 2016 modeling program. As a long term horse girl myself, I love capturing the connection between a girl and her horse.
The session lasted around an hour and a half in the evening as the sun was setting. The location was a gorgeous hay-field with tall grass.”
Amber’s Photography Tip:
Taking pictures of horses can be difficult. Even if you manage to get the expression and connection you are hoping for, you also need to be especially attentive to the focal length you are shooting at and the impact it is having on how the horse looks “proportionally”.
Although I am typically a prime lens shooter, I opted to shoot this session primarily with my 70-200 f/4 lens. The reason I opted for this zoom lens over my others is the focal length.
When not used properly, anything below 50mm may cause a horse to look very out of proportion (depending on the angle you’re shooting from), and you’ll end up with either a huge head and small butt or vise versa.
The second reason is that sometimes horses are a bit antsy, making it easy to miss the prefect shot when shooting with a prime if the horse moves and suddenly you are way too close or too far away to “get the shot”.
When shooting horse/rider combinations I would not recommend shooting below f/4 to ensure both the horse and the human subject’s faces are in focus.
When in doubt, however, focus on your human subject’s face rather than the horse’s.
So now that we are using the proper equipment, how do we get that shot that shows that gorgeous connection between a horse and their handler?
The key is patience, though it does help to have some understanding of horses and their body language.
I typically try to start with some still headshots, but when I notice the horse is getting either impatient or bored, I will move on to some moving images (either riding or waking the horse toward me/away from me).
I will oftentimes tell my subject to interact with their horse and tell them look at them, give them a kiss on the cheek or, when doing traditional looking-at-the-camera shots, just give them some tips on how to hold their hands, etc.
Next is the horse’s expression. Part of the key to keeping good expression from the horse is mixing it up. You want ears perked forward and bright alert eyes.
My clients probably think I am crazy because I will make all sorts of noises, whistle, moo like a cow, whatever it takes to get that horse’s attention.
The noise of crumpling grocery bags can also really help get their attention. Just note that for some horses this may be “too much” and make them nervous, and if that’s the case then back off and go back to mouth noises.
If the horse is becoming really antsy, don’t let it make you nervous – just have your human subject walk them around/move the horse between shots.
Lastly, I would avoid using reflectors or flashes when taking pictures with horses, because chances are it will make them very uncomfortable.
Following these guidelines for working with horses should result in flattering images of both your subject and their horse, and demonstrate the connection between the horse and their owner.
Amber used a Canon 6D with a Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens and a Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L lens to capture these images.
Click here to see more tips on working with Pets.
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