By Jax Woods of Jacqui S Photography
1. Clean is the new natural
You by no means need to start looking to hire a pro *spit and polisher* (although we can recommend a few) to plait every wayward hair and brush quarter markings in a selection of different designs on your horse’s perfectly formed apple-bum, but we do recommend a bath and brush, as the straight-out-of-the-paddock look won’t give you any pics worth printing on an A2 canvas to adorn your lounge wall.
2. Looking at the bigger picture
Backgrounds are often overlooked as we get so excited by the beauty of what stands in front of us that we forget to consider what’s happening in the rest of the picture. Alas, a telephone pole in the background that looks like it’s attached to the end of your horse’s left nostril is far from perfect and very distracting. Always look for open landscapes or clean/solid backgrounds that aren’t too distracting but help to frame your image.
3. Bribing friends and raiding the household
You are going to need help to get your horse’s attention and there aren’t always grooms around to assist, so you’ll just have to play the ‘friend’ card. If that doesn’t work, throw in the offer of a great cup of coffee and explain that leaping around with a feather duster will fulfil all of the dreams they never knew they had. Long feather dusters work wonders in getting your horse’s attention (like that ears-forwards look we all hope for). A mirror will also do the trick. NOTE: Over-enthusiastic use of the feather duster could yield unexpected and unwanted results, and you may end up taking rather more motion pictures than you were planning…
4. Lighting the way
Lighting is one of the most important aspects involved in getting the best possible picture of your horse. And let’s be honest, getting up early is one thing equestrians know a lot about. Early morning light (30 minutes after sunrise) or late afternoon light are the best times to take pictures, as the light at these times creates a softer glow without the sharp shadows that you get with the midday sun.
5. Composition basics
The rule of thirds is one of the first things you’ll learn in any beginners’ photography class, and it basically means that you don’t want your subject slap bang in the middle of your image. You want to try and create a feeling of space around your image that isn’t distracting and draws your focus to the horse, without him needing to be the literal centre of the stage.
6. How low can you go?
Another important point to look at when taking portrait pictures is using a lower f-stop to ‘pop’ your horse out of the background. A lower f-stop (for example 2.8/3.5/4) creates a shallower depth of field, which makes the background appear slightly blurry while still keeping your horse (the star of the show) in perfect focus.