What is an “equine beauty” photo shoot?
An “equine beauty” photo shoot is a “model experience” photo shoot with a horse.
There isn’t really an accepted convention for what to call these photo shoots. One could call it a “model experience” photo shoot, or a “glamour shoot with a horse”. But I tend to call them “equine beauty” photo shoots. There is a risk people will think it is the horse that is meant to be beautiful. But of course all horses are beautiful!
But whatever you call this type of photo shoot, the aims are always as follows;
- To capture the young lady looking good
- To show the relationship between the young lady and her horse
- To show the horse looking good
- To do all this safely
The photos in this blog post were taken at the stables where the horse lives, in Sussex.
Equine photography needs special skills. Some photographers become specialists who only do equine photography. Many of these photographers are horse riders themselves, so they are immersed in the subject, and understand exactly what the client is likely to desire in the postures of their horses.
It is necessary to understand the conventions that govern whether the horse “looks good”. For example, it is considered very important that the horse’s ears are directed forwards, as in all the photos shown here. This often causes problems, because horses are “prey animals” and their ears are constantly reacting to noises that come to them from all directions. One can try making unexpected noises in order to attract the attention of the horse’s ears, but it seems most horses rapidly acclimatise to new sounds. Furthermore, there is always a risk that a nervous horse will be upset by unusual sounds.
Showing the relationship between the horse and “model”
Usually, but not always, the “model” will be the person who owns the horse. And because of the investment of time and money involved, and the importance of capturing good images, I always recommend hiring a professional make up artist for this kind of photo shoot.
Speaking in general, photographs that “tell a story” work well. One of the aims of this type of equine photography is to show the relationship that exists between the horse and (usually) it’s owner.
Many people who own and ride horses have photographs, but it is relatively unusual to get “glammed up” in order to have photographs taken of you with your horse! So this type of photo shoot becomes a special experience as well.
So we want the owner to be “glammed up” according to what they feel comfortable with, we want to capture the relationship between the owner and the horse, we want the horse to “look good”, and we want to do it all safely.
Health and safety
There are also significant health and safety concerns, because horses are very heavy and immensely stong animals. They can quite easily break the bones in your foot if they step on it for example. So one has to be careful. It is also wise for a photographer to check that his professional public liability insurance covers him to photograph horses.
The two photographs of the model against the sky were lit using battery powered studio flash. Actually I used the trusty Ilux Summit 600, which happens to be the type of unit I own.
All the other photographs were taken using only natural light.
Incidentally, some horses are totally happy with flash, but others are not happy. Horses vary a great deal in their personalities. Some horses are much more nervous than others, and even the appearance of a lighting modifier sitting atop a tall stand will spook some horese.
Personally I prefer to shoot horses using natural light. So it is important to position your subjects so the light upon them is flattering.