We welcome Catherine Stokes, equine photographer, to share some tips on how to get that perfect shot of your horse. Catherine has been around horses since she was 5, her childhood horse farm in Rockland County, NY being only a two minute walk away from her home.
She holds a BA from Bennington College, with a degree in photography and videography. Catherine has worked closely with Ginger Kathrens, an Emmy Award winning cinematographer, known for the hit TV series, Cloud the Wild Stallion of the Rockies. She has spent time out West in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Nevada, documenting and advocating for wild mustangs. In addition, she has been a volunteer at PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) for over 8 years.
Catherine has recently started her own photography and videography company, deciding to marry her passion for horses and love of film and photography. She currently resides in Putnam County, NY where she lives with her two rabbits, Buddy and Velvet, and keeps her horse Prince nearby. Let’s hand it over to Catherine…
Catherine out in Montana making friends with BLM wild mustang Shane
Do you have a smartphone? A point and shoot? Or even a nice DSLR digital camera? Technology today is so advanced that you don’t necessarily need to spend thousands on a big fancy camera. A smartphone can take an excellent photo too. No matter what camera you are using, the following tips will hopefully help you to take better photos of your equine friends.
Step 1- Find the right light
Best times to photograph are in the early morning and late afternoon, when the light is ‘“flat” meaning there are no harsh rays that are casting shadows. Better yet, choose to shoot on an overcast day, where the light will be even and you won’t struggle with harsh shadows.
Of course it goes without saying, if your horse is doing something cute midday then of course just snap away! Just make sure, as the photographer, to face away from the sun- this will guarantee a photo without sunglare.
If you're shooting on your phone, make sure to turn your HDR on- this will find the middle ground of the light and will give you two different exposures of the same shot.
No sun glare
Step 2- Get in front of the horse
This can be difficult at times, knowing how unpredictable horses can be. Take a second before snapping the picture, and make a game plan. For example, when I’m in the paddock I make sure to start off standing at least 40 yards away. (Most of my best photos are from when the horse is first starting to approach me) If you're shooting in a riding ring, stay in the middle. If you can’t interrupt the horse and rider in the arena then set yourself up along the long side of the fence for more photo opportunities.
Imagine if I were in front of this wild herd of horses!
Step 3- Get down to the horse's eye level
As with any subject, having their eye be the focal point is what makes for a flattering photo. Make sure that your camera is at the same level as the equine’s eye. And remember to keep adjusting your stance, horses tend to change their body and demeanor frequently.
This is Snap the mini. She almost doesn't look like a miniature horse when you get to her eye level.
Step 4 - Get your horse's attention
It goes without saying that 99% of the time we want our horses ears forward when we take a photo. Therefore, it’s important to be prepared with something that gets their attention - for example, a wrapper that can be crinkled, or something to toss in the air nearby - even a bit of grass being picked and flying through the air can work if that’s all you have. An extra set of hands can be very useful if you have a friend around to help so that you can focus on the shot.
A bucket of treats never hurt
Step 5- Patience
As with anything to do with horses, patience is a must! Prepare yourself to wait for the best moment. And don’t forget, you are also testing your horse’s patience, so don’t expect stellar behavior from them for an infinite amount of time, and give them a break if necessary.
Step 6 - Safety First!
We all know we want the most amazing shot that anyone has ever seen. We want it to win awards, be displayed on a billboard, or be on the cover of a horse show program etc. But never forget about your safety or your horses. Sure, we might get into a slightly unique or different position for taking photos, but it should never come at the expense of ending up in a dangerous situation. The same goes for our equine friends.
Good-luck and don’t forget to have fun!