How do you take great pictures of a horse?
Horses are graceful, majestic and beautiful creatures, capturing all that beauty through photography can seem a little daunting at first, but with practice you’ll be rewarded with incredible images.
Becoming a skilled equine photographer (even if only for fun) takes time, the right equipment, and a well-trained eye. The good news is that any enthusiastic photographer CAN do this.
What is Equine Photography?
Equine photography simply means pictures of horses!
There are many different types of imagery, so most photographers choose to specialize in one or two areas.
Professionals pursue fine art equine photography and travel the world capturing images of some of the most exotic and beautiful horses on earth. Others prefer staying closer to home and capturing memories at local shows, horse fairs, or other events.
Depending on your skillset, equipment, and drive, you might be able to build a career. But even pursuing your equine photography as a part-time gig can be deeply rewarding.
Common Camera Terminology
Aperture: This means the size of the opening in your lens and helps control how light or dark you images will be. Aperture is measured in “f-stops.” More open (i.e. wide aperture like f/1.8) lets more light into your camera, and less open (i.e. small aperture like f/22) lets less light into your camera.
Bokeh: This refers to the blurry orbs of light you often see in photos of Christmas lights. Playing with a really wide aperture can help you achieve this look in the background of your images.
Depth of Field: When you hear people talk about certain areas of a photo being in focus and other parts being out of focus, they’re talking about depth of field.
ISO: This term means how sensitive your camera is to light. If you’re shooting during the day, a lower ISO works great (e.g. ISO 100). If you’re shooting in low lighting or at night, you want your camera to be more sensitive to light (e.g. ISO 3200).
Shutter Speed: This dictates how long your lens stays open before taking the picture. It’s measured in seconds or fractions of a second. Leaving your shutter open longer lets in more light. Just beware that anything that moves during the time your shutter is open (e.g. an antsy horse) becomes blurry. Use a tripod!
Common Types of Horse Photography
Portraits (Horse + Human)
You’ve probably seen a lot of horse and rider portraits floating around platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. They’re great ways to commemorate the relationship between people and their horses.
Who wouldn’t love a nice picture of sweet moment between their kid and pony? Something to remember when you grow old and the pony is long gone? What about marking milestones like high school or college graduation alongside your favourite horse?
Easy to see why portraits are so popular!
Horse and rider portraits are also a great way for newer photographers to dip their toes into the world of equine photography. Plus, portraits can be a solid source of income for established photographers.
If contemplating this as an income keep in mind more riders are willing to spend money on photos of themselves or their family with a horse than a horse alone.
Portraits (Horse Only)
If you dream of taking stunning black background (or nature background) portraits, you’ll find a lot of joy in horse-only portrait photography.
Camera Settings // Horse Portraits
If you’re taking a portrait of a horse, you can likely start with:
Aperture between 3.5 and 5 (I tend to shoot around f/4.5)
You can open up the aperture more if needed, but keep in mind horses need more depth of field than humans, due to face and body length.
Lowest possible ISO although with modern DSLRs I wouldn’t be too concerned with grain, better an in focus usable print than none at all.
Quickest shutter speed (that you can get away with). For capturing really high-speed motion, such as horse racing, I recommend using shutter speeds of between 1/2000 second and 1/4000 second.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What’s the best camera for horse photography?
The best camera is the best one you can afford. If you’re a Canon user consider the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV or the Canon EOS 6D Mark II and if you prefer Nikon take a look at the Nikon D5.
Q: What’s the best lens for horse photography?
Your best overall lens for horse photography is a 70-200 f/2.8 or 70-200 f/4 These are pricey, but well worth the money. In addition I always have a prime lens on hand, consider a 50mm f/1.2 or the more affordable 50mm f/1.8.
Ready to start Shooting!
Horse photography is an amazing, magical, wonderful pastime that many people enjoy. Despite current technology, it’s still an art and takes a lot of education and practice to truly master.
With enough dedication, patience, and a little luck, you’ll be taking great pictures in no time.
Shooting with: Canon 6D Mark II
Lens: Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM Lens and the Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 L IS USM Lens
Tripod used: Manfrotto 290 Xtra
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