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Equine Photography

Expert Micki Dobson

Questions (For answers, scroll down or click on question)

How did you get started in horse photography

How do you get a good confirmation shot?

How can I get photos like I see in the magazines?

I would like to pursue an equine photography career ...While I am attending a community college for photography, I would like some suggestions on how I can obtain my equine education?

Questions and Answers

Q: How did you get started in horse photography?

A: Actually, I fell into it. I was taking a lot of photos of my daughter, her friends and their horses. I found I had a "feel" for it and started going to shows and trying my luck. Encouraged by the results, I returned to school to study photography, started to submit work to magazines and was surprised at how quickly my work was published. Aware that this sounds all too easy, I must say that in the early 80’s there were only a handful of horse photographers in any given area and there are numerous photographers from other areas of photography that are infiltrating the sport due to its increasing popularity. Your edge here though, can be a thorough understanding of the movement of the horse which many of those photographers lack.


Q: How do you get a good confirmation shot?

A: There are no quick and easy answers. It is very involved and time consuming. There are many in-depth articles written on this and I would advise reading as many as you can find. Studying the stallion ads will show you how to stand the horse up. If you look carefully, you will also learn the best ways to have the sun "light up" the horse. Use it to his best advantage. Using a camera with a lens in the 100-200mm range will give you the best results. 100-200 speed film is good and use a shutter speed that will stop any movement.

In addition you will need:

an experienced handler (without one you are wasting your time);

an impeccably clean and polished horse (and tack);

a day with good light and plenty of time (very early morning or late afternoon);

a horse that is in the right frame of mind (if he isn’t interested, try another day);

a ground person that can see what the handler can’t (it takes a lot of experience to see it all yourself);

plenty of film – and don’t be afraid to use it. You can’t get "the" shot in one or two clicks. Just when you think you’ve got it, the horse will close an eye, twitch an ear, flick his tail, or rest a leg;

patience – horses don’t pose for you. Be ready for those special moments, that look in the eye, that set of the head and neck. It can happen when you least expect it and will be gone before you know it;

gimmicks – learn what attracts his attention. His friend, trotting off in the distance, a mirror, a little grain. Try anything you can think of to "wake him up". Ears up, on a sleepy horse, is not what you are looking for;

learn from your mistakes. Study your pictures, take note of what you did wrong and try again.


Q: How can I get photos like I see in the magazines?

A: This has a lot to do with faith in yourself. This procedure feels very strange and encourages doubt until you master it. Pay attention to the way the horse moves. You have to learn to anticipate the movement you want to photograph and take the shot a fraction of a second before the movement happens. If you wait until you see what you want – you will have missed it.


Q: I would like to pursue an equine photography career but live in the Chicago area where there are no equine colleges.   While I am attending a community college for photography, I would like some suggestions on how I can obtain my equine education?

A: To the best of my knowledge, formal equine photography is not offered at any college.  My suggestion would be for you to advise your community college instructor of your intentions.  He can guide you in the general area of sports/action photography.

Get involved in the horse world.  If you do not ride, you are going to have to develop at least a basic understanding of how a horse moves in order to know "where" the shot is.  Look for shows in your area (the larger, the better) and take many photos.  Compare your shots to those in equine magazines.  Learn how to capture the best moments of the horse - the wrong angle or bad timing can make the best horse look really bad.  Show your photos to horse people and ask them to critique them.  Also, many photographers at shows will be happy to guide you and can give you tips that will prove invaluable in this field.  Once you feel comfortable with it all, look for photographers that hire assistants for the larger shows and you will get on the job training.



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