Stop taking crap horse photos

So it’s that time of year again when the prime horse show photo season starts. And year after year, we see the good, the bad and the ugly horse show photos. Nowadays everyone and their mom has a DSLR camera and can take horse show photos. It’s one of the reasons I’m not going to as many shows this season. I’m just gonna sit back and show you how it’s done instead of going there and doing it myself. If you want to be a good horse show photographer, let me be your guide. Here’s some tips about how not to suck at taking photos.

1. Look at the sun

Whenever I’m at shows taking photos, people gravitate towards me and start shooting right next to me. Like “oh this girl knows what’s up. I’m gonna stand by her and shoot where she’s shooting.” It happens all the time. Like it’s not rocket science people. This isn’t some complex lighting setup with a crew of 15 people with bounce boards and lighting gels. Look at the sky. Your only source of light is the sun. If you’re looking at the horse and it’s all shadows from where you’re standing………then MOVE.

Not to mention all camera setups are different. My telephoto lens has way harsher shadows and a sharper contrast than my super telephoto. If I have my super telephoto, I can get away with having more shadows because they don’t come up as dark. But if I have my telephoto, I need the subject lit the F up.

Bad lighting (shadow in front)
Good lighting (shadow behind)

2. Pay attention to the movement

A lot of people just point and shoot without really paying attention. For horse shows, it’s not portrait photography, it’s sports photography. You need the shot where the horse and rider are flowing the best. You need the best action stance. When they jump, the golden shot is knees together mid-jump. The perfect shot. I see so many after shots of this horse already jumped the jump and his ass is in the air and the rider looks discombobulated. It looks super unattractive for both parties. Nobody wants to see that. Timing is everything. It takes a bit of practice to get the timing right, but eventually you’ll get it.

When they’re cantering or trotting, make sure the horse’s legs are extended the most, not clumped up together. Otherwise it looks choppy and ugly. You want the graceful stride, not the awkward in between one.

Don’t just put it on continuous shooting and hold it down either. That destroys your camera over time by putting unnecessary shutter snaps on it, and it’s a waste of space on your memory card. Watch the course, time it right and you should get the perfect action shot on the first try.

Bad shot
Good shot
Bad shot
Good shot

3. Stop doing crap cropping jobs

This one is pretty simple. It’s a general rule to not crop at a joint otherwise it looks like the horse or person’s leg/arm/whatever is cut off. It’s not aesthetically pleasing. When you crop, do it a little before the joint. So if it’s a horse, take the shot so that the frame crops a little bit above the horse’s knee or rider’s knee.

There’s different types of shots also. I won’t get into it all, but if you’re shooting for a full body shot – then incorporate the ENTIRE body. I see so many photos where the horse’s hooves are cut off or their legs are kinda in frame kinda not. Like don’t do that. If you’re gonna shoot the entire horse, then do it. If you want a closer up shot, then zoom in more and just take the horse’s legs out completely. Horses’ legs are so long that if it’s not cropped above the knee/below the shoulder it just looks awkward. You can take the photo first and crop in post afterwards. Just be mindful of your cropping! There is a right and wrong way to crop a photo.

Bad cropping job
Good cropping
Good cropping

In conclusion

Taking good horse show photos is pretty easy as long as you pay attention to the action, the lighting and framing. There’s obviously more specifics into proper framing and lighting, and in the next couple weeks I’ll cover all of this and proper camera settings!

Also feel free to DM me if you want a photo critique or have questions about photography in general. I gotchu.