In the last couple of years myself and my partner have bought and sold a few horses, not to make a living from, just a case of selling the ones that no longer quite matched our personal needs and purchasing ones to suit our new needs. During that time one of the single biggest frustrations as a buyer has been the type of photograph people use to advertise their horse with. Whilst many of those photos are fine to have from a personal aspect they are not ideal when it comes to catching the attention of a prospective buyer. That blurry selfie isn’t going to be taken seriously, neither is one of your horse happily grazing in his rug.
As we live in a hugely visual world I’m going to give you a few tips on how best to present your horse and photograph him in order to gain the best chance of stopping that dreaded online ‘scroll’. The best bit is that you don’t need to be a photographer to do this and it all can be done with the phone on your camera. It just takes a little bit of planning and preparation.
Firstly, to me it doesn’t matter if you are advertising for £2,000 or £20,000, the process is the same.
The idea behind everything is to give your prospective buyers the best visual information as possible in order to lessen the number of potentially needless questions you might be asked, and so giving you (and your prospective buyers) less wasted time in the long run. Getting them right in the first place is key.
The first thing to do is to think ahead. A horse can be photographed at any time of the year for selling but let’s at least try and pick a day when its not raining and the wind isn’t blowing like hell. So check the weather ahead of time and pick a day/time that fits your own routine etc. It doesn’t need to be a super sunny day but it always helps if the coat shines. Just ensure that the sun is behind the photographer though and not behind the horse.
PICK UP A BRUSH
Have your horse clean and tidy. Bath them and tidy their manes and tails to a suitable length for breed type etc. If they’ve got heels that need trimming sort those too and pop on some hoof oil too. You don’t necessarily need to turn them out ready for a County show ring however a well presented horse will gain more views than one that’s covered in stains and looking like you’ve just dragged him in from the field. Plaiting them up, if they are a type or breed that it favours, gives a really lovely final touch to their presentation otherwise a short, neat mane laying on the correct side is fine. I like to see ridden aged horse with a bridle on and either have the reins over the head or have them back to the withers and use a lead rein to hold them. Alternatively a nice leather head collar and lead rein works well, particularly for youngstock.
Ideally you want a flat area, preferably concrete or gravel. Grass or an arena surface will still work but make sure the grass is super short so it’s not covering the hoof at all and if you are on a surface be prepared to re-oil feet too! Undulations can give a horse a false look or what might end up looking like a conformation fault, which will automatically turn some prospective buyers away. If there is no where in your yard then consider a quite road or lane too. Choose a background that isn’t too distracting. Brick walls and barn sides usually work well as does a nice hedge. Post and rail is fine too so long as it’s not to close and in good order. Watch out for foreign objects too – trailers, tractors, ploughs, buckets, muck heaps, wheel barrows etc etc.
Now there is a degree of conversation with this one in some areas as it’s not quite like you might expect. The ideal way to gain the most visual information from one photo is to have the horse presented side ways to you and with all 4 legs visible. This is often referred to as an ‘Open Stance’. To achieve this you have the off foreleg is under the shoulder and the off hindleg under the his backside, then your near foreleg is just a little bit back from the off fore and the near hindleg just in front of the off hind. In the photos above I’d ideally like the hind leg to be a little further under him and the chestnut’s off fore is just a little too forward, however both examples work well enough.
Below are a couple of examples of what really aren’t ideal as either handle or forelegs are blocked.
A relaxed but alert horse makes for a good outlook, so have someone stand directly in front of him to keep his attention and hopefully those ears forward. A plastic bag, squeaky toy or a bucket of feed works well, however you don’t want his head and neck to raise too far as again that can make it more difficult to ‘read’ aspects of his conformation. The handler shouldn’t stand too close to the horse and should be facing him rather than at the shoulder as he shouldn’t be in shot. Overall it pays to practice, particularly if you have a young horse that might not be use to standing. Having a horse that will move a leg easily forwards or backwards when asked is really helpful but with general patience and practice you’ll soon achieve the desire stance and look. Remember to stay calm yourself, that’s handler, helpers and photographer!
The minimum I’d put forward in an advert is one of either side and a nice head shot. If you can add action shots then this can help guide your prospective buyers further, however you need to ensure that the image is crystal clear and the timing for the leg positions is correct. A good trot shot gives an idea on shoulder and hind end movement, and if they jump then one of these, loose for a young horse or ridden otherwise. Before using an image you have bought from an event by a professional photographer check that you have the correct license to use the image for financial gain. Often you have only ‘bought’ the photo as a personal use image, i.e. for display in your own home or on your personal social media sites. The moment you want to use that same image for a commercial reason you must ask permission from the photographer. You might be asked to pay a commercial right to do this. However you are far better to do this than to try and take an action shot with camera phone that isn’t 100% clear, in good light and with a great background. Or commission a photographer for this part.
So the message is to keep it simple, keep it clear and keep it clean. The easier it is to ‘see’ the horse and all it’s component parts the more chance you have of someone stopping to actually read the advert.
These simple tips will really help you. However, if you would rather put this responsibility with myself then please do get in touch. I have very favourable rates for horse sale images and am always delighted to assist. You can get in touch with me here.