So you want to be an Equine Photographer

Equine photography is one of the lesser known, though nonetheless still popular forms of photography. For those of you who do not know what it is, Equestrian Photography is the Photography of Horses, both in their natural surroundings and in competitive situations.

Equestrian Photography can be divided into 2 categories:

1.  Competitive Equestrian Photography

This is not a bunch of photographers jostling and pushing each other out of the way to get the best shot.  I am simply referring photographing horse sports!

Horse Sports include the following disciplines:

  • Racing
  • Show jumping (known in America as stadium jumping)
  • Dressage
  • Showing
  • Eventing
  • Equitation
  • Driving
  • Vaulting
  • Western Pleasure
  • Western Trail
  • Rodeo
  • Barrel racing
  • Gymkhana
  • Polo
  • Polo-cross

There could be others, but these are all the ones that I can think of right now.

What is the Key to Being a Successful Equestrian Photographer?

The Key is to know your subject, the way portrait and wedding photographers, know theirs.

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The way that fashion photographers understand models. That, in a nutshell, means that you should be a horse person. You should understand horses. And more importantly you need to understand the way a horse moves.

Your success as an equestrian photographer is absolutely dependent on being able to capture a horse in their most classically correct positions, and make all the riders look like top athletes.

Let us take Dressage as an example. Dressage is a highly specialized form of horse sport. Each movement requires the utmost precision by the rider, and years of training for the horse and rider to get it right. 


Time and experience will teach you how to take good photographs, but only passion and interest in your subject will make your photographs truly great. Since making money by capturing equestrian competition, is largely dependent on selling your photographs to the competitors (sadly newspapers often have bigger sports in mind), you need to understand the sport, to be able to make your competitors look good.


This means knowing what angle to capture each movement at. It often, in the case of dressage, means memorizing the test being performed, so that you know exactly which move is coming and when, so that you can be prepared for the 'extended trot' for example, and be sure to get at least a few great shots of that.

The better you can make your competitors look (in other words the closer they look to that image of perfection seen in the very top riders) the more likely they are to buy your photographs. 


However, do not be despondent, if there is one thing that horsey people like nearly as much as horses, it's talking about horses. If you don't know what you're looking for when you start out, ASK.

Meet people, pat their horses, ask about their breeding, their training, and learn as much as you can. People will be very happy to share information with you, and how they want their horses to look, so there is always hope, if this is the avenue of photography that you wish to pursue.


2.  Natural Equestrian Photography

This area of equestrian photography focuses on  equines in their natural state at home.

 While this draws many parallels with competitive photography, in that you need to understand (or at the very least not be afraid of) horses, it is a different ball game.


It is usually best to charge, as you would for a 'human' portrait session. Chances are your subject is going to include the rider anyway, whether in their riding gear or not. Usually the natural side of it will include numerous head shots of the horse with or without the owner/rider, and also shots of the horse running free. There are many techniques one could employ to get your subject moving, and getting the best out of them, but this is not the place to go into those lengthy explanations.


To succeed as an equestrian photographer, you need to have the following personality attributes.

  • love horses.
  • You need to love standing, a lot. Like for 8 hours a day. You will be the first to arrive at the show, and the last to leave.
  •  Be willing to work in all types of weather. You will get rained on more than once, I can assure you.
  • You need to love fairground food (hot dogs/hamburgers) or be disciplined enough at packing sandwiches.
  • Horse poop is basically just grass, so when you stand in it do not scream like a girl. It is okay. You should be wearing boots anyway.
  • You need the bladder control of an elephant! If you want to get all the shots, then you *can't* go when you want to. Hope for a lull in proceedings and then run like hell.
  • Not be squeamish about less than sanitary out houses.


Smile and make friends with other equestrian photographers, and HELP each other. Chances are you're the same kind of person, and will actually become life long friends.


If you would like to learn more about equine photography consider attending one of my “Equine Photography Workshops” You will learn more in half a day about how to photograph horses than 6 six month college course. It is a fun Hands on afternoon with horses and models who are happy to pose and ride over jumps until you “Get it”.

Visit for details – dates and locations


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Comment by Nikki Brazier on January 19, 2011 at 5:05pm
Hi: Check out our post for TheHorseStudio artist call -and feel free to pass it along;)

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