Photographing horses with their riders

posted in: Adventure, Photos | 0

Animal photography is both fun and challenging. Fun because I love those gorgeous animals, big and small, and challenging because each species requires different techniques. From stalking cats to throwing sticks for dogs, I’ve come up with plenty of tricks to walk away with few good photographs. However, photographic horses requires a whole new skillset. This is partially due to the fact that our small furry friends are carnivores, while the horses are prey animals. They act much differently than our small friends.


First and foremost -safety. If you have no experience with horses, you will need a horse handler. Horses are both gorgeous and big, often weighting half a ton! And they frighten rather easily. Just make sure there is an experienced horseperson around to calm the horse.

Picture pretty

First off, start with a clean and brushed horse. Choose a well-maintained bridle or halter. If you are taking close shots, being clean is of utmost priority. If you are to take shots from a distance, you can get away with less than pristine horse.

Surrounding area

You don’t really want rusty pipes, old equipment and other junk. However, all working barns and ranches have their ugly spots, so make sure to avoid those. Walk around and pick few nice spots. Blooming trees are perfect opportunity. Use the golden hour to your advantage, as it will make the horse coat shine.

Ears! Those can make or break your shots

Always try to capture the horses with their ears forward. Usually a clapping sound or a whistle is just enough. The only exception of this are the action shots – because in that very moment forward ears do not represent well the intensity of the moment.

Catching the moving horse in tricky too. They move darn too fast, so you will need to adjust the shutter sped to 1/500 or higher. Use a small pasture or a good looking arena for the moving shots

Be creative and take advantage of every moment

Don’t do just the old tried and tested shots of the entire horse or of the horse looking straight into the camera. If you choose to include a human in the photos, capture the interaction between the human and the horse. Capture the little details, like the pull-on boots of the rider for example.

Speaking of boots, let me tell you that you need to pay attention to your footwear too. You will be walking in mud and dirt, so it has to be tough like a work boot, comfortable and easy to put on and take off according to Bad footwear choice can ruin your day and divert your focus from your subjects.  

If you are comfortable, you can get creative. Try getting a shot of the horse’s eye, or the mane. Shot the rider and the horse from a creative angle. Catch them interacting.

I’d like to take inspiration from other shots, so take some time to browse horse images on flickr or pinterest to help get your creative juices flowing

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