B.A. Roland


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Location, Location, Location!

While this might be the mantra of real estate agents, it also applies to photographers and, in this case, a photographer shooting horses. Now, let's presume that you & I have scheduled a session and I'll be taking conformation shots of your horse at your place. (Or, at least, your horse's place!) You can absolutely help the process by scouting a great - drumroll, please - location!   

I think we can agree that, overall, horses are special. They can be the picture of beauty and grace, kindness and calm. Meanwhile, they're also the personification of strength, power and speed. When I photograph horses, I want to emphasize all those characteristics. Not only do I want the viewer to see what I'm seeing - I also want them to appreciate the quality and uniqueness of the subject. To do that, we have to avoid distractions.

Browsing through online equine sites, we've all seen shots of horses posed in front of "stuff". Whether that stuff is just clutter or a pickup truck up on blocks, it takes away from the subject. It lessens the visual impact of the horse. We want people to look at that photo & fall in love with our subject. We want them to say, "Wow! What a beautiful horse..." and not, "Huh, looks like they must've hit a deer with that F150".

Too, all the "stuff" is a disadvantage if your horse is for sale. From a marketing standpoint, that diversion is probably going to lessen what a prospective buyer is willing to pay. It's all about perception. (Example: If a buyer thinks you need funds to fix that deer-slayer F150, he just might think you're desperate for whatever money you can get.)

So, does that mean that you should trailer your horse to the Botanical Gardens? Nah, not quite. Just be very aware of your surroundings and what will be in the background. We want everything to compliment your horse so, if you think a mowing and/or weed-eating would improve the looks of the area, go for it! Clean up the clutter - the less "stuff" in the shot, the better. Pick up the kids' toys and the dogs' chew bones. Piles of manure in the vicinity? Best grab that scoop shovel. If you're planning on having a fence in the scene, make sure nothing is in disrepair. (Broken fence planks tied to posts with baling string is NOT a good look.)

Distractions aren't always things that you can easily clean up and avoiding some of those problems are on me, too. As an example, I can remember taking a shot of what I thought was a FANTASTIC racehorse image. We were in the Keeneland saddling paddock. The weather was perfect, the jockey had just gotten a leg up, the colt was on his toes, the trainer and  groom were both smiling... It was a solid lifestyle shot - if your lifestyle is racetrack. ;)  However, that night when I looked at the image on my laptop, my racehorse looked like a unicorn! (Please note: While I have nothing against unicorns, the Kentucky Racing Commission does frown on them.) Due to the angle of the shot, a branch from a distant tree appeared to be growing out of the subject's head. Oops!!! I'd been so engrossed on getting the horse, jockey, et al into the composition that I'd totally missed the effect of this one branch. Did that ruin the photo? No. Thanks to editing software, I was able to do a branch-ectomy. All the same, I truly prefer to get the shot as correct as possible in-camera.

Sure, things like that will happen shooting sports or photojournalism but taking posed shots gives us much more control of our surroundings. Eyeball the area & where the horse will stand. Unless you're going for a carousel look, avoid standing him in front of utility poles. Don't forget, you want to avoid anything that distracts from the stars of the shoot - you & your horse!

Even if you're in a place like eastern Kentucky or West Virginia, you should be able to find a bit of fairly level ground for your horse to pose on. It's all about balance.      

Consider color & contrast. Do you have a dark bay horse? We'll avoid standing him in front of, say, a dark green stand of trees or a black, tobacco barn. A light colored barn or the daytime sky, itself, will make him stand out. Meanwhile, that dark colored grove or barn will make your grey or palomino horse's color pop.

Doing this type of preparation is WONDERFUL! It'll help the session to go smoothly and it'll take pressure off you. Translation? You can relax and have fun!     

Just remember. It's location, location, location! (And keep that scoop shovel handy!!!)

B.A. Roland







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