I’m frequently being asked for some tips that everyone can adopt when taking pictures of their horse with their phone. As soon as the weather brightens up and the sun comes into play this is when the messages start. I’m always happy to help with things like this, so I thought it made loads of sense to give you all three really quick and simple tips you can put into practice so you can take better photos of your horse yourself on your phone.
In all the competitive event work I do at shows the first aim is to ensure the light source (e.g. the sun) is actually behind me and therefore shining towards my subject matter. That way the horse and rider are always in the best possible lighting and will minimise shadows. That’s not always possible though as the judge may need you in a certain place to enable them to carry out their role, which is a more important role than that of the photographer and the sun has a habit of flipping well moving so at times the jump or jumps you are assigned to (as an example) may be a little bit compromised as the sun moves through the course of a class.
However, in portrait photography I might actually want to use the sun as a tool within my photos. Either through creating amazing sun flares, or silhouettes or using it as a back drop in some way. The best Black Background images you’ll see will be done in such a way that the light provides much of the work for you! For the purpose of this blog though I’m going to take you through just a handful of tips amongst the many you might hear about and hopefully you’ll notice a big difference in your own results…
The ‘Right’ Light.
First of all beware of the midday sun, it really isn’t your best friend when considering photography. It’s really harsh and bright light, and it has a horrible habit of creating unflattering and harsh images. You’ll shine, you’ll squint, anything white will be so bright you won’t be able to see any details… the list is long.
Yep, there are definitely things you can do in this kind of light and still take great photos, but ideally if you can avoid it then do so and I’m trying to make this as simple as I can, so I’m not going there!
Photographers talk about a magical time in the day called The Golden Hour that they all love to work with. There are actually two golden hours in each day, one in the early morning before the sun has risen and one at the latter end of the day before sunset.
They are referred to as ‘hours’, but sometimes they aren’t as long because cloud cover can often impact the time, so be prepared to shoot quickly at times…
The light during these two periods is so much softer and way more flattering. It’s really interesting to actually directly see the difference (if you can be bothered!) by setting up exactly the same image in exactly the same place and angle. Do it in the middle of the day and do it during a golden hour. You’ll see a totally different feeling and look between the two.
I find that even being able to place your horse (and yourself if you are going selfie style) looking straight towards the direction of the sunlight at this time is a bit easier as the light is naturally softer, you’ll get less or no squinting for a start. The light creates a lovely warm glow to the face without being super shiny too.
If you look at the image I’ve used above as an example we are just into the start of the golden hour time frame, and although part of the horse is in shade or partial shade, I’ve got the key area lit by the natural light and that light isn’t overly harsh. As the sun slowly sets the light keeps softening and warming. Personally I could have done with waiting just a couple more minutes to improve (soften) the light again that’s falling on the face, but sometimes with horses being placed in environments they wouldn’t normally be, sometimes you have to take the image there and then!
There’s a whole lot you can do in the golden hour, different angles to consider that will create different looks but essentially this is your key period to shoot in if you want lovely soft atmospheric and flattering photos.
If your only option is to take that photo at a time away from the golden hour, and let’s face it that is a huge percentage of the day, then my first piece of advice when faced with bright light is head to the shade. It sounds really simple but it’s often overlooked. Sunny days do not always mean sunny pictures. So by removing the harsh light you automatically create a much nicer image. If you can’t find natural shade then use something that will help provide something, maybe the side of your horsebox, trailer or a field shelter.
Watch the Shadows
With horses there will always be times when you just can’t find shade… the middle of their field or the middle of the competition showground spring to mind. Don’t worry though; you can still work with this by simply watching where the sun is throwing shadows. Again it’s about missing the harsh light and shadows, so the best way to deal with this is initially to keep your horse standing still and you move around them in a circle to find where the light is falling on them in the most even way. Once you’ve discovered that angle, then you can turn your horse to suit that light… if that makes sense?
That’s it really, consider these really quick tips the next time you are about to take a photo of your horse and hopefully you’ll see a difference
Have a fabulous week!