5 things I learned from my own photo session


I hired Rachel Reilly Photography to take my own photos with my horse, Gracie. I did this for a few reasons... As a photographer myself, it's really good to be put in my clients' position every now and then, so I know exactly how they feel in front of my camera! I have never had an equine photographer take my photos before, in the past I always had my mom, friends, or sister take my photos- and when it was a professional they weren't specifically equine photographers. So it was really good to get the full experience that I offer, but on the other end of it! Lastly, Gracie is getting old. Like really old, and since she's showing her age so much now, I really don't think I'll want any more, at least professional, photos of her after this. I don't want to remember her looking like an ancient bag of bones (I'm sorry Gracie lol) when she's gone- I want to remember her as her pretty, plump, sweet, and sassy self. Now, on to the things I learned from this experience!


You Gotta be Willing to Pivot

I originally had my session with Rachel planned in May. A few days before the session I tested positive for you-know-what... so we made the decision to reschedule for July. That was switch-up number one. The next thing was the location- I searched allll over for the perfect location, testing out multiple spots with my friends modeling for me. I got it narrowed down to the spot I wanted, it was super pretty, offered lots of variety, and not too far of a drive. But, since we had to change dates, I realized it was going to be just a little too tricky to go get Gracie from where she's living now (she's being used as a lesson horse, an hour and a half away), haul her to the spot, then back to her summer home all in the limited time I now had. So we decided we'd be best off just shooting where Gracie's living now, in Ellensburg. Well, 3 days before the shoot I saw it was going to be 26mph wind in Ellensburg. So I made the decision to move locations again- back to the original spot... even though that required a lot more driving on my end- but I'd rather have 6 hours of driving in circles than the wind blowing my hair into my eyeballs the whole shoot. Clearly, the location was amazing and it all worked out!

Planning Outfits is Hard!

I can help clients with their outfit decisions all day long! But when it comes to styling myself, it's quite the struggle. After being overwhelmed by the idea for a good 3 months, I decided to finally take action the month before my session. I started by writing down very general ideas of outfits I might want to wear... my thoughts when making this list were: 'what do I like wearing usually', 'what will I feel confident in', 'what is truly 'me'', 'what will match with Zach's outfits, Gracie, and the dogs'... so I came up with:

1. tank top & shorts, 2. tank top & jeans, 3. graphic tee & skirt, 4. long sleeve & jeans. 5. dress. Shoes were too overwhelming for me for this step so I left that for the very end when I tried everything on!


From there I dove deeper in to each look, thinking about specifics. To decide on colors, I know already that I don't like pink, red, or orange with my skin tone (sadly, because I love those colors, especially pink with sorrels). So that narrows it down a little. Then I thought about the clothes I have already vs what I'll need to buy. I'm actually the world's worst shopper, so I try to only shop once a year and also almost always try to buy second hand or rent if possible.


Lastly, I threw together the clothes I already had, borrowed a few things from my sister, then bought the rest of the pieces. Once I got it all together I tried on every outfit to make sure I liked it. Then sent pictures to Rachel to get her opinion & to prepare her for what I'll be wearing, which is something I personally like to know as a photographer. I did end up skipping out on the graphic tee outfit- but that's okay because I wasn't super in love with it. I made sure to wear my outfits in order of favorite to least.

Your Horse Doesn't Have to be Perfectly Spotless

Because of the whole time crunch with having to go pick up Gracie right before my session, I didn't have time to give her a full bath. Since she's a boring ole sorrel with one small white star, I really didn't need to worry about making her perfectly spotless. Just gave her a little rinse to get the saddle marks off from her being ridden at camp all day, a nice clip job, brush her off well, and spray some pepi and fly spray and we're good to go. If she were anything like my last horse, Crystal, not giving her a bath (or 3) before the shoot would not be an option! And since Gracie is old, I wanted to have her completely natural (no bands, no fake tail, or hoof polish) so that did make my life quite a bit easier as well! I will say though, if I were getting any black background photos of her (clearly we couldn't with this location, the one bad thing about it) I would have wanted her to be pretty spotless since every little spec of dirt shows up on those.


It Pays to be Organized

When I say I'm obsessed with organization, I mean it. And it pays off well for me, because without it I would forget literally everything. I created a detailed timeline for my whole day so I knew when to start getting ready, how long it was going to take to drive to each spot, when I needed to be at each spot, etc. All that to say, I actually was about 10 minutes late to the location, but thankfully Rachel planned for more than enough time and it worked out just fine!


For keeping outfits organized, I found this new trick from Raul Esparza after he styled one of my client's shoots last month- pack your outfits in packing cubes & add a label in the pocket or on the zipper with a number order so you can grab your next outfit easily.


One other very key thing which kind of goes under this category is having at least one assistant. I had my friend and regular assistant for my sessions come with us, so she could help me get Gracie ready, hold her when I changed, get her ears up, hold my dogs, run and grab anything I forgot from the trailer, etc. Even if Rachel would have brought an assistant with her, I would have still wanted Payton there to help with those things, because the more hands helping the better!

Sneak Peeks are Very Important

I honestly didn't realize how important sneak peeks were until I had this shoot. Since we couldn't quite get completely away from the wind (it was still about 15mph winds in Quincy- but anything is better than 26!) the whole shoot didn't really *feel* like it was going super well. I, of course, knew I could trust Rachel to get good shots, but I really felt like my hair was absolutely insane the whole time! It wasn't until I saw the sneak peeks 2 days after my session that I realized it went way better than it felt. I can only imagine the amount of clients I've had in the past that felt the exact same way- whether it be due to the weather, their horse acting up, or any of the many reasons one could feel like it's not going perfectly. I used to take about 3, sometimes 4 days to send sneak peeks, but now my new goal is the next morning!

Bonus: what I looked for when hiring Rachel

There are many photographers I look up to and gain inspiration from, but there are just about 3 that came to mind when it came time to make the decision. I had to take into consideration things like posing & editing style, what was included in the packages they offered/the experience offered, pricing within my budget, personality of the photographer and whether my personality would work well with theirs, how far they're willing to travel, if they'd want to set up a styled shoot while they're here (styled shoots are my photographer love language lol. If I meet up with a photog friend we are not 'going out for coffee' we're shooting some epic pics- check out the styled shoot we did together here)! Rachel checked all of these boxes for me and I'm very happy with my decision to hire her to take the last professional photos I'll get with Gracie.


This post was inspired by Lindsey Long's blog post here.