You’ve already got a bracelet with your horse’s name, a bumper sticker telling the world how much you love your pony, and heart-shaped doodles all over your notebook with your horse’s name inside. There’s just one thing missing: a portrait of your favorite four-hoofed friend. But before you decide to drop a hefty sum on a professional photographer, you might want to consider taking the photos yourself. Check out these tips from our staff photographer, Kristi, to help improve your images so you can get that picture-perfect portrait of your pony that you’ve been dreaming of—without having to break the bank.
1. The Background: Keep it Simple
There’s nothing more distracting than a busy, completely in-focus background. Try pulling your subject away from the barn/wall/tree/etc. Keeping them off the background by a minimum of 15-20 feet should help minimize distractions.
2. Timing is Everything
You’re obviously going to be disrupting the normal routine, but trying to minimize the impact will make your life much easier. Try shooting after your horse has been turned out or just before riding. If you try anything around feeding time, you may end up with a very cranky horse who can’t focus on anything except the fact that he’s the only one missing dinner!
3. Know Your Equipment
Make sure you know what you’re working with and how to troubleshoot any problems. If you’re using an SLR and it can go on a manual setting, try it out! It will give you much more control. If your camera has presets, test out each one in advance so you can choose which one will give the effect you want to achieve.
4. Lighting Matters. Always.
Make sure you choose a location that has the best light for that time of day. Noon is not usually the ideal time to shoot something since the sun is directly overhead and can be pretty harsh. Try morning or afternoon. If it’s overcast, you’re in luck, and you should be able to get nice, even light no matter the time of day.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Try a Different Perspective
Get down low or up high. Try a different angle. Tilt the camera sideways.
Create some visual interest with your perspective.
6. Break the Rules
Rules were made to be broken so don’t be afraid to play around. Placing your subject in the center of the frame might not be proper according to the Rule of Thirds, but it can still make a great image.
7. Have a Willing Assistant
Bribe your best friend with Dunkin Donuts (or Starbucks) and drag her (or him!) along for the adventure. You’ll need someone to help you get your horse in position. This person will also have the happy task of jumping around, waving treats and shaking branches in order to get a good “smile.”
8. Shoot Continuously
Yes it’s going to create more work in editing, but if you shoot continuously you have a much better chance of getting that one perfect shot. And hey, now that everything is digital, it’s not like you’re paying for film!
9. Be Prepared
You might assume this goes without saying, but make sure your batteries are fully charged and you have extra memory cards. Test your equipment ahead of time and ensure that everything is working properly. Take some treats with you to give your horse as a reward for being such a good model. Peppermints are a smart treat choice for photo shoots because you can use the crinkly wrappers to help your horse put his ears forward.
10. Have Fun!
Taking pictures should be fun, not a chore. Remember to enjoy yourself. If something isn’t working, don’t get frustrated! Things don’t always go perfectly to plan so if your horse doesn’t want to stand still, try some walking shots instead. Take some breaks to visit with your horse and let him know he’s doing a great job. After all, it’s as much about bonding as it is about getting that perfect shot.