Preparing for your horse and rider shoot part 1

So you have taken the plunge and booked a photo shoot for you and your horse but suddenly questions like “what happens next? How do I decide what to wear? What about the horse, how do I groom him?” start to run through your head.

First, you need to think about what you want to portray in the photographs. Do you want to show off the bond you share with your horse or the way you work as a team dancing in the arena or coming towards that huge jump?

Clothing choice

Your clothing choice will play a big part in what you want to portray.

Dresses, loose shirts and jeans do a very good job at creating a relaxed image while jodhpurs, show jackets and long boots give off a very professional feel to the photographs. If you chose to go with the professional feel, dress according to how you ride, for example, don’t wear a dressage jacket and top hat for cross country.

If you chose to go for a less professional and more ‘romantic’ feel, it’s important to make sure first and foremost that your clothing choice isn’t inviting danger (for example sandals… my horse broke my toe through riding boots and I can’t imagine what would have happened had I been wearing flimsier shoes!) **I actually will not shoot if the rider isn’t wearing proper footwear, you may take your shoes off once you’re on board but not a moment beforehand because it is my job to apply safety standards**.

You may find yourself asking “So aside from the safety concerns, what else should I worry about with my out of the ordinary clothes for riding?”

Colour – chose a colour that will suit both you and your horse. Some “go to” colours when you just can’t decide are black, white, red and blue.

This is a simple colour chart that I found on Google Images, Unfortunately, I could not find the original webpage from which the image shown below comes from.


Dress Length and style – Something to keep in mind is that when you’re in the saddle, your dress will rise up a bit, making it appear much shorter. I chose to wear an asymmetrical dress (shorter at the front and longer at the back, kind of like a mullet but much cooler!) on a shoot that my boyfriend did for me. This meant that no matter how much it rose at the front, the back stayed nice and long and could also be draped over the horses back.  A full length dress with a slit down the leg would have a similar effect. Use your common sense, a tight club dress is obviously going to rise and be uncomfortable while also running the risk of flashing your photographer, (which I suppose may be a bonus if said photographer is super attractive!)

Patterns/sequins and sparklies – Personally, I find patterns to be distracting. The eye naturally focuses on them. If you must wear patterns, keep them nice and simple. For example, a light chequered shirt. If you’re wearing sparkly clothes, make sure that your horse is okay with them first, I imagine it could be pretty scary on a bright Summers day! 

Make up – Make up is a matter of personal preference but here are some things to consider; make up smudges and horses can be hard work, your beautiful smoky eyes may very quickly become coal eyes, choose matte foundation to avoid looking like a vampire from the Twilight saga, colourful make up may draw all the attention away from the horse and rider and only highlight certain areas instead.

Choice of set

Time – The time of the day may not seem all that important when booking your shoot but nice lighting is absolutely crucial! The best times of the day to shoot are mornings and evenings, Mid-day can be troublesome as the sunlight casts very harsh shadows while morning and evening light is very soft and suited perfectly to portraiture!

So when to shoot, morning or evening? Both have their benefits, shooting in the morning gives you more daylight hours but casts a very cold light which can of course be adjusted in post processing while shooting in the evening gives you time to perfect your horses turnout that day, rather than the night before but you run the risk of running out of daylight.

f9f735_a8589bf34e0d4c7d977797b8d26e1851This photo of Rosie from Sheep’s Head Horse Rescue and pony trekking was taken at about 2pm during the Summer, you can clearly see the harsh shadows cast on her face by the bright mid-day sun.

f9f735_64eb8ddc553842ada31ad3edcae4181a~mv2_d_5568_3712_s_4_2.jpgThis photo of my horse, Danny, was taken at about 3pm in October, the light is soft and highlights his muscles nicely without casting any harsh shadows.

f9f735_430d1963b66442b18335efa0606785e7This photo of Aisling and her pony Lilly was taken in morning light, The light is very soft as it was overcast, there are no harsh shadows but poor Aisling had to rush to get her pony cleaned off on time for the shoot because as is typical, Lilly seemed to know and decided to get very dirty!

Set – Where you choose to hold your shoot is just as important, if not more so, than what you wear! A cluttered background will distract the viewer from the horse and rider. You’re the star of the shoot, not the inevitable pile of buckets that us riders seem to accumulate just outside the fence line!

Of course, the set will reflect the type of shoot that you are doing and what you want to achieve, romantic type shoots look a bit silly in an arena and are much more suited to the great outdoors whereas arenas are great for a more “event” type of photography. Here are some examples of photography in different sets.

Once again, this is Rosie from Sheep’s Head Horse Rescue. Obviously not everybody has their yard on a peninsula but if you do then you have a beautiful background for your shots!

This is Ruby, the pony who was saved from slaughter. She currently resides in Sheep’s Head. This photo looks very cluttered in colour and so had to be converted to black and white.
This is a photo that my boyfriend took of my horse and I. It’s a lovely example of the romantic type photographs that you can get in a field.


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