5 Common Mistakes When Planning An Equine Photoshoot

Mistakes to avoid when planning an equine photoshoot

You’ve dreamt about the perfect photo session with your horse for years and you’ve finally decided it’s time to make it happen. As an equine photographer, I’m the first to admit that not everything always goes according to plan. Here are some practical tips to help you stay a step ahead when planning an equine photoshoot.

Mistakes When Planning An Equine Photoshoot

Mistake #1: Trying something new on your horse at your photo session.

If you have never ridden your horse bareback before, the day you are wearing your best clothes and you have hired a photographer is not the day to find out if he’s cool with it! The same goes for riding double, riding in a dramatic dress, or anything you haven’t done many times before.

Better Option: Practice any ideas you have for your photo session in a controlled environment several times beforehand. The key to success at your photo session is being prepared and comfortable with what you will be doing! Introduce clothes like long dresses, hats, and scarves, or anything else that might blow in the wind, make funny sounds, or change your appearance to your horse before the shoot. Also introduce him to the location or area you want to shoot in so he is used to standing there in a relaxed manner.


Mistake #2: Completely changing up your horse’s schedule on the day of the shoot.

Better Option: Some interruptions to your horse’s routine will be unavoidable since most of us don’t schedule photoshoots every day! However, try to minimize major disruptions that can affect your horse’s behavior. For example, leaving your horse in the barn all day to keep him clean for the shoot when he normally has 8 hours of turnout can turn even a well behaved horse into a ball of energy that won’t stand still for photos! Make sure he has an outlet for his energy before your scheduled shoot time. Other scheduling issues that can make your photo shoot challenging: feeding time and turnout time. If your shoot is scheduled during feeding time, make sure to feed your horse at least part of his normal meal before the shoot. If your hungry horse can hear all his friends getting fed while he’s standing in the field modeling, he may run out of patience very quickly! Similarly, if all the other horses are getting turned out while he has to stand in a different part of the property, he may get upset. This is especially an issue for herd bound horses and bringing a calm buddy to stand off camera during the photo session can help him relax. Take your horse’s personality and experience level into consideration when you are planning your shoot so you can minimize changes that might make your shoot more difficult.


Mistake #3: Not bringing a friend or family member who knows you and your horse to help.

Many photographers will bring an assistant to help with equipment or even getting the horse’s attention for the “ears up” shots we all want, but not every photographer will.

Better Option: Bring a friend, parent, or other family member who knows you and your horse to help with the shoot. It will be very helpful to have someone you know and trust to help you with outfit changes, hair or makeup touch ups, and even just helping you relax. Having someone who knows your horse is also a plus, since you may need help handling him during the session, and having someone who knows his quirks and personality can help get his attention during the session so he looks his best too.

If you can’t find someone to help, the All Ears Pro App is worth investing in–I use it all the time!


Mistake #4: Not giving yourself enough time on the day of the shoot!

You are trying to groom your horse in just a few minutes before your session, he’s acting up and won’t let you braid his mane, and now you are supposed to look good too? When the photographer arrives you are hot, flustered, and still trying to get ready for the photo session!

Better Option: Allow more time than you normally would for everything you need to do to prepare your horse. Horses seem to have a sixth sense for tight schedules and suddenly even the most placid horse doesn’t want to come in from the pasture or stand still for grooming. With plenty of extra time, you can take it in stride and stay calm. Make sure you have time to get yourself ready, and relax and cool down before the photographer arrives. That friend from tip #3 comes in handy here! If you have a horse savvy friend who can take over grooming while you get yourself ready, you will be much more relaxed and ready for the session.


Mistake #5: Choosing a photographer who is not familiar with horses for your photo session.

You’ve just got your photos back and the lighting is absolutely perfect, you are perfectly posed and look stunning, and your horse looks like a lame donkey who is “aced” out of his mind.

Better Option: Of course, as an equine photographer I’m going to suggest that hiring an experienced equine photographer will help you get the photos you want with your horse! Whether you choose a photographer with an equine background or another will depend on their style, availability, and how critical it is to you that your horse looks just as good as you. For most equestrians, it’s pretty important that our horses look good, and an experienced equine photographer will know which positions are most flattering to horses, how to get them into position, and how to make it work when the horse doesn’t cooperate! They will also be comfortable working around horses and know horse behavior well enough to know when they can push a little more to get a horse looking his best, or when to pull back before he gets upset or even spooky.

However, an equine photographer may not always be available so there are a few things you can do to help out a photographer who doesn’t have a horse background. First, follow all the other tips here so you and your horse are calm and prepared. Make sure the photographer knows that it’s important to you that your horse has his ears up and looks alert. Don’t expect her to manage this while she’s also shooting; this is where your friend from tip #3 comes in handy again! It will be your friend’s job to capture your horse’s attention and keep him alert for the photographer. Ask the photographer to direct your friend on where she would like the horse to be looking to get the shots she needs. With a little bit of teamwork, you can pull off a successful horse & rider photo session!

Bottom Line

Planning an equine photoshoot doesn’t have to be complicated. They’re a lot of work but really are worth it if you do it right!

Planning an equine photoshoot
Planning an equine photoshoot
Planning an equine photoshoot


Do you have any other mistakes you think should be added to this list? What are you guilty of,  and willing to admit it?

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