Horse or Horse Show Photography

Horse or Horse Show Photography is and art in itself. Not only do you have to master the technology involved, but you also have to understand the People and the Horses involved in the showing, not to forget the procedures of the show itself.

Here are some initial pointers on getting a good shot of a horse!

In Motion, first: jog/trot is the best gate to shoot in “rail-classes” (Hunter, Pleasure) and the inner front leg should be at its most extended point, just before (10-0mm) it lands in the footing. There are reasons for that. If you have the outer leg to the front, the hind/ass will look small/pointed or skinny. Pictures taken after the hoof hits the ground looks like the horse is falling over and putting too much weight on the front and it’s usually lowering its back as well. We want to show a balanced and light (not heavy) horse!
Second: it’s almost impossible to take a photo at the Lope/Canter that looks good, there are exceptions and in this case there are examples from 30 degrees from back on the inside that are ok, still with the inner leg at the most extended position, especially in the Hunter.
Conclusion: almost all other situations look awkward or unbalanced in one way or the other, but there are exceptions of cause. And shooting only trot-pics is a little boring, but when it comes to Pleasure/Hunter, that’s what it’s about.
Get the right position and angle for your shots: With respect to the participants and judges you can move around quite a lot in the arena and find interesting angles. In Trail for example there are often low angles that gets interesting. Although our horses got specifically nice asses and there are some from-the-behind-shots that make it through; they are more often looking better from the front. And stepping up to the bridge looks better than stepping down from it.

Focal length: it’s absolutely forbidden 🙂 to take a photo from the front at a focal length lower than 100mm. Horses end up looking like “The Moomins” big nose, no body, they might even look malnourished.

Reins: strive for shooting the loose reins. It’s what sets this sport apart from all the others. If they are stiff or if there are tension in the reins it’s usually something wrong with mouth and ears as well, not to talk about the neck. Don’t try to catch a low head, try instead to catch a soft neck.
Ears forward or to the rider and Tail down!
Rule Offences: are seldom appreciated, kicking, falling, biting or other obstructions won’t go down good with the participants.
Quantity vs Quality: only publish the top 50% of the 10% best pictures. Even if you have shot 100 pictures and 10 are technically good, it will only be 5 anyway that are super good and make a difference. And your work will be considered of higher quality. Although this is the most important advice for amateur photographers, I think it carries some relevance here too. We all tend to get carried away and can’t choose which the best ones are, but some are better and some are not. And people can’t browse everything anyway. You are both not expensive anyway, so you don’t need to produce quantity. Publish less pics (of higher quality and price) and thus make more money with less effort!