How to photograph horses so that people will be entranced, or at least like to look at them

Don’t tell my husband, but I’ve found a gorgeous horse I want to add to my herd. I’ve seen his photo and video and he’s just so cheap for his gorgeousness, how can I resist?

I’ve heard that some people are self proclaimed shoe addicts and then there are those hidden and secretive who look for much less savory photos on the web, me I like searching for potential horses to buy. I’ve spent, ah maybe we shouldn’t try to count them up, hours looking at photos, devising new search criteria, just finding possible equines within reasonable driving distance.

Well, I think this time spent looking may qualify me for knowing what gets attention and it’s not out-of-focus, can’t tell what you’re looking at, large headed, who didn’t care enough to do a good job photography. If the first photo thumbnail isn’t good there’s no reason to waste time opening the window to see more. And if there’s no photo why use the web at all. Just one photo – then it should be an excellent side view of the whole horse – but just one photo is not really enough.

There’s a difference between photos used to sell a horse and photos for art or horse appreciation. A buyer wants to know the horse has good conformation. They need to see the whole horse on level ground from the side standing usually without a saddle.

Nice side view, well lit, good expression on horses face, great neck line, legs fairly square, it’s a quarter horse so the accentuated hip is good – downside is a little much stuff behind her and helper is distracted. The rest of the story is this girl was getting her horse ready for a workshop, so she’s unaware that I’m using her horse as an example of a fairly good for sale shot, I wonder if she wants to be a helper? She’s doing well without trying
Cute photo of unsure pair, but not a sale type picture as horse and girl look awkward and legs are not straight. Also there is foreground gate that draws attention.

As a horse buyer, I don’t care about unknown people smiling at me, in fact I only want them showing something valuable the horse can do in a way that’s pleasant. I want to see the horse, I want to see that it’s healthy and worth the money being asked for. I’m an experienced horsewoman so I don’t mind a bit of excitement, but many people want calm and safety.

The camera used for these photos was a Canon Powershot A710is. I checked its price on Amazon today, list $399, but they had used ones in good condition at $100-150. Most cameras can do a reasonable job. Shooting basics; sun behind you, horse on level ground – sideways, telephoto all the way out and you move to frame the horse, shoot with the camera about the same height as halfway up the horse (to avoid short looking legs). Having a horse helper to keep the horse’s attention and position is very beneficial, you want the horse to look pleasant, attentive and not grumpy or warped in shape. Clean and shiny helps too.

Nice outline and pose, note that sun/light is not from behind the photographer so details are lost, but still very appealing photo. Well, this is me in the photo. I gave my camera to a willing person in the audience, showed her on/off, telephoto toggle…see what can be done. Really, no excuses please.

What if you’re not in it to sell your horse (fyi none of my horses are for sale, I acquire and keep. That’s why mostly I just look) and you just want some good, appealing photos? Many of the same things apply, but shadows can really make your photos more dramatic as can closer – part of the horse views.

Light and contrast and the feeling of calm sweetness.
Sunlight, deep shadow, gray-white horse…
Light, clarity, contrast and interactions between people and horses add meaning and interest. Although I don’t like the ones where the person is doing something unsafe…like kissing the horses muzzle.

Drama is good but so is color and appealing scenery. The scenery can be the reason the mood is the way it is, playful, calm or restful.

Horse in spring green grass with lots of yellow flowers. Dandelions are kind of playful and pushy.
Fall colors, movement, good contrast and everybody looks like they’re working together.

It comes down to playing with your camera a bit, noticing the light and letting the horse be beautiful. And if you’re telling people he looks much better than the picture, take some more pictures. You can do it!


4 thoughts on “How to photograph horses so that people will be entranced, or at least like to look at them

  1. I think writing and setting up an article is one of the best ways to improve how you do stuff yourself. It’s like a reminder of the things you know, but don’t always use. So there’s benefit whether others find it or not. That said, it’s fun to have people like what you do…Thanks.

  2. very informative post.. I used to be a horse person but its been years now since I’ve been riding.. getting older and less flexible 🙂 thank you for visiting my blog and for the follow. I appreciate it very much.

  3. Seeing as I’m borderline terrified of horses, you won’t find me kissing one’s muzzle anytime soon. But this has been a fascinating peek into a whole another world, thanks. Happy window shopping.

    1. Glad you liked the view. Horses are considered an attractive hazard by insurance companies (like pools/water) so your worry is reasonably justified. And I likely will continue window shopping, thanks!

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