As a professional equestrian photographer, I'm here with some pro tips on how to make sure your photo session with your horse goes as smooth as possible.
1. Communicate your vision with your photographer
While it's normally the case that someone hires a photographer for their unique style and creativity, it's also important for photographers to know your vision for your session. You can do this by noting the purpose of your session, the types of outfits you'll be wearing, the overall feeling you want to portray in your images, by telling them the story of you & your horse, and of course by sending a Pinterest board of ideas & inspiration.
2. Set realistic expectations of your horse
Being told to stand still for 1-3 hours straight with their ears up is not a normal thing to ask of your horse. Never set too high of expectations of your horse for any duration of a session; it's best to be expect little and be impressed by their patience than to expect too much and get upset. Getting frustrated when they won't stand still, wont keep their ears up, or has sparked a little too much energy is never the answer. Personally, if I see a horse that's just over it, I'll move on to a different pose or let them head back to their stall for a moment to grab a bite to eat and decompress. An extra lunge mid-session could most definitely be the answer for some as well!
3. Be prepared
My clients receive a 30 page planning guide with checklists and tips to get prepared for their session. Some of the checklists have timelines leading up to their session... like at two weeks out: take your horse out to the 'scary' new spot you've always wanted to take photos to get them relaxed in that environment. Or at one week out: try on all your outfits to make sure they fit how you want them to. Or the day before: clean all your tack!
4. Work them well!
Unless your horse is extremely chill, don't expect them to not get a burst of energy the moment you ask them to stand still to take photos. The best way to combat this? Work them well before the session! Ride them in the morning, then bathe and get them all ready to go after a nice sweat sesh. Lunge them if you don't have time to ride, or... even better, do both!
5. Don't start a session on a hungry stomach
The best lighting is either in the morning or in the evening... what else falls during that same time frame? Breakfast and dinner. Make sure your horse gets a pre-shoot snack in so they're not furious when they see the feed cart roll by and they're not in their stall to enjoy their dinner. PS. it's a good idea for you to get some food in ya, too!
6. Bring an extra hand
Ask one of your parents, a friend, your trainer, or significant other to come with you to the barn to both help get you & your horse ready and to help during the session. While I generally always have an assistant with me to get ears up, it's always nice to have an extra hand to fix hair, hold the horse, grab something from the barn, etc. (or to video you as you try to lope your horse bareback with no spurs on ;) )
7. Hire a professional beauty artist
Even if you can do a good job on your own makeup, there's something special about getting professional makeup done. It relieves quite a bit of the preparation stress and makes you feel extra pampered for your day.
8. Above all, hire a professional photographer who knows and, ideally, specializes in horses
A lot goes into equine photography. You have to know what poses look good and which don't look good from the eye of a true horse person; you need specific lenses to make sure the horse's head doesn't look 10x bigger than it really is; you have to be able to get the horse's ears up; and you really need to make sure the entire session is safe- being able to read a horse's behavior is something that takes time and experience.
Want to get a head start on planning your session? Download my free Ultimate Shopping Guide for Your Equestrian Session!