Black Background Portraits FAQs

Fine Art Sessions

August 3, 2021

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Just like every cowgirl needs a little black dress with fringe, every horse needs a classy black background portrait hung in a place of honor—am I right, or am I right?

There’s nothing like a black background portrait to illuminate your horse’s natural beauty and personality, and that’s why horse owners everywhere love these beauties. FYI: they also make fabulous choices for wall art!

Many horse owners reach out to me with questions about getting quality black background images of their horses. They’re usually worried about everything from preparing the right locations on their property to whether their skinny, elderly or recently injured horse will still look good in photos. (Spoiler alert: All horses look good on a black background, trust me!)

Ready to find out everything you’ve ever wanted to know about black background images? Let’s go!

What can I do before the session to ensure these pictures are awesome?

The absolute best thing you can do is to longe your horse to help work out those nervous willies! Do this about an hour before your session to ensure enough time for last-minute touch-ups.

In the days before your session, practice going into that space with your horse if your horse isn’t already used to it. Showmanship enthusiasts have a leg-up on black background sessions, but if you and your horse aren’t into showmanship, don’t worry. Practice setting your horse up in the space so that he’s comfortable standing still there for short periods. Use treats and rubs to reward him for good behavior.

It’s also a great idea to practice carrot stretches with your horse before the session. Carrot stretches are great for eliciting dramatic poses like this one (picture), but you want to make sure your horse can bend its neck without moving its feet. Here’s a great article about how to perform carrot stretches.

Preparing the space is also key. Clean, even flooring is a must! If it’s concrete, scrape and sweep. If it’s a dirt floor, rake it so that everything is even. Clear away all the background clutter (at least one horse-length behind your horse), and try to plug up any holes in the walls or cracks in the doors behind where your horse will stand.

What do I need to have available on my property for you to take black background portraits? 

Great question! We need a three-walled structure with a roof that’s big enough for a horse to fit in. Ideally, we don’t want any openings behind the horse to let in stray light. Barn aisles, indoor arenas, run-ins and hay barns are all great options.

Note: Images have been lightened to showcase the spaces used. Not a reflection of the final image!

Note: Images have been lightened to showcase the spaces used. Not a reflection of the final image!

What should my horse wear?

Leather halters and show bridles are gorgeous in these; Western horses also look great in full tack. If you saddle up, reach for the tack you’d use for your biggest show of the year. Black background images are also gorgeous when the horse is naked! If you want to go the au naturel route, I can use a special photo halter and wave my Photoshop wand after the fact. That way, you get the natural look without any of the risk!

Jordin Fritz Yeager BBG 10.20-By Rachel Griffin Photography-3_website.jpg

How can I make my horse really pop?

Elbow grease! Get out your favorite curry comb and start currying your horse a few weeks before your session. This encourages shedding, promotes circulation and distributes those natural oils throughout your horse’s coat. If you have a dark horse who’s prone to bleaching in the sun, plan your session for early spring. Always condition and detangle your horse’s mane and tail. You should also consider investing in banding or braiding before the shoot for a truly polished look. Just like on show day, ShowSheen is a lifesaver.

Olivia Cliver Dogs and Connor 69-By Rachel Griffin Photography 2021-5073_blog.jpg

Can you enhance color or dapples and take out any dirt or green spots that I might have missed? 

My personal style is to enhance a horse’s natural look and unique expression, and that includes bringing out those gorgeous dapples! And yes, touching up missed spots is no problem. Even recent scabs, scars and injuries can be cleaned up, since some horses like to conveniently hurt themselves in the days before a session.

How many horses can you put in one photo? 

I like to photograph each horse by itself, then composite them together in Photoshop to make stunning artwork out of your whole herd. So the real answer is… as many as you want! Each horse must have its own session, but savings/perks are available when 3 or more horses are booked together. Note: With a large enough space and very cooperative horses, it is possible to photograph multiple horses for these portraits naturally—this setup can lead to some beautiful interactions, so chat with me if that’s something you’re interested in.

RGP19 Ashley Campbell Herd Composite_website.jpg

What’s the best way to enjoy my images?

You’ll like sharing your horse’s portraits on social media, but these memories are best enjoyed as real, tangible pieces of art. Take a look below at some of the canvases and art prints past clients have chosen for their homes; remember, all black background sessions come with a $50 product credit to help you get started.

Ready to turn your horse into a work of art?

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