While looking through my portfolio, I often hear people say ‘Oh my horse would never stand still for that photo… We wouldn’t be able to get a picture like that at my yard… That must be the most well behaved horse on earth!’
My reaction is always to say ‘Well, actually, let me let you into a secret…’
We all know that horses have big characters and they are unlikely to stand with their ears forward, looking stunning for an hour and a half. If we were asked to stand still for a long period of time and smile we would get bored or want to do something else and we need to remember this during the shoot.
So while my portfolio is filled with horses looking fantastic, are they really like this for the duration of the shoot? NO. The best ones normally get bored after a while, preferring to throw their heads down and eat grass!
I enjoy working with each horse, getting to know them, judging what they are happy to do at each stage of the shoot and taking pictures that show them in their best light.
If I see that a horse is getting wound up I ask the rider to walk the horse away and towards me, or let the horse graze for a short while so we can take some informal portraits in the field. This is simply so for that short period of time the horse feels as though it is doing something. Then when we bring the horse away from the grass or stand him still, he will normally cooperate for a period of time. For me, portrait sessions are all about compromise, keeping the horse happy, you calm and taking relaxed pictures that show you both in this light.
In a similar way, if a horse wants to walk on all the time, I will suggest you both pose looking over a gate. Alternatively, we could let your horse loose in his field to release some of his energy in a natural way, whilst taking some ‘at liberty’ shots.
Amy and Ruby
The pictures displayed above are of Amy and Ruby. As well as being the pair who showed me how strong a human-horse bond can be, Ruby also showed me that horses are full of character!
Ruby was not the easiest horse for Amy to work with but she does have a big personality, lots of affection for Amy and a typically mare-ish temperament! As such, photographing her was about compromise. We started their shoot as quickly as we could so we were photographing Ruby alert and interested in what was happening. When she did get bored, we used some of the methods I described above to keep the shoot flowing. This way Ruby felt as though something was always happening and we got the variety of pictures Amy wanted.
Katie and Bear
I am also reminded of Katie and cheeky Bear who feature throughout my portfolio. In the two shoots I have done with them, Bear has tried to drag Katie away, scraped his feet on the ground, or locked his ears back in protest! By going to different locations, using different methods to get his attention and letting him graze, we were able to keep him happy and relaxed. You can view photos from their session here.
I guess it is worth mentioning that I seem to be more patient than most people. I always want to get the best pictures I can for my clients, but the well-being of the horse is always the priority. If this means letting the horse graze for five minutes or changing the plans of the shoot to benefit the horse then this is what will happen.