Searching for the perfect photographer for you and your horse is a little like looking for that perfect pair of riding boots. Whether you ride English or Western, you need boots that are serviceable, sound and functional, not to mention so perfectly fitted that you can swing up into the saddle to go for an impromptu ride or step into the show pen for the biggest class of the season without missing a beat. And while form and function are important, you also want to rock boots that make you feel like you’re on top of the world and equip you to do anything you set your mind to.
Just like the wrong size or type or feel of boot can throw off the quality of your ride, feeling awkward and insecure in front of the camera can ruin everything from your experience during the photo shoot to the finished photos hanging on your wall. The right photographer for you captures you and your horse in a way that you’ll be proud to look at the final images for years to come.
As someone who struggles with my own confidence in front of the camera, I get how hard it can be to know if you’ve found the right photographer for you.
That’s why I’ve put together my four favorite tips for how to choose an equestrian photographer. These are the things I like to think about when I’m choosing someone to take photos of me with Herbie, for example – so I hope they’ll help you!
WHAT’S MY PHOTO STYLE?
I don’t mean what outfits you’re going to wear or the poses you’ll strike, even though those are important! I’m talking about your own favorite style of photography here. We all have photos that we love or aesthetics that we enjoy. When you’re scrolling your social media feeds and a photo stops you in your digital tracks, what’s it like? Is it dark and moody, light and airy or genuine and bright? Is it a perfectly posed image of one of your show friends with her show horse, or is it a moment of candid happiness between your best trail buddy and her pony? Do you love black background images or a more natural setting?
Once you know what kind of images you like, ask yourself: “Will this kind of image look good on my walls? Will I be excited to share these with my friends? Will I want to keep these on display forever?” If the answer to all of those is yes, then you know what style you like!
WHAT’S MY BUDGET?
Budget matters. I’m a firm believer in budgeting for what matters in your life, and that includes photos, so don’t let the word “budget” scare you into going minimalist. Instead, think about it in terms of what you value and want out of your session. Do you value quality and experience, or are you looking for a bargain? Do you value artwork or are you more interested in IG likes?
Many photographers charge a session fee and then charge separately for the photos, and there are a lot of different ways you can buy photos from a photographer nowadays. Some photographers sell web-released digitals, fully released digitals, digitals with print products, and print products. All of that can add up! So it’s important to think about what you want out of a session, then work your way backwards to figure out which photographer’s pricing style fits best with your requirements.
(Bonus Tip: Are you confused by a prospective photographer’s pricing guide? Send them a question and ask for help! They won’t bite, and they’ll be glad you’re doing your research and asking questions in advance. Trust me!)
DO I REALLY NEED AN EQUESTRIAN PHOTOGRAPHER?
Spoiler alert: If you’re getting portraits taken with your horse, then my answer is a resounding YES. But let me explain…
Yes, a professional photographer who provides family, wedding or portrait photography services can take photos of you with your horse, and the photos might turn out great —or they might not. For the non-horse photographer, horses can be challenging to deal with, intimidating to direct during a shoot (not to mention dangerous) and they can also be downright awkward looking on camera. There’s a reason that equestrian photographers have become a vital, if niche, part of the photography industry, and that’s because we’re horse-crazy people just like you.
We’re skilled with working with horses, we know what is safe (and how to take horse-appropriate precautions), what positions look beautiful, we’re familiar with breed standards, we know what lenses and angles to use to photograph horses at their best and—most important of all—we know what horse people like to see when they’re looking at photos of their beloved horses. Plus, most of us can walk the walk and talk the talk because we’re living that horse life, too!
DO I LIKE THIS PHOTOGRAPHER’S WORK ENOUGH TO CHOOSE IT FOR MYSELF?
This is the big one. All photographers have different editing styles, different lighting preferences and different moments that they love to capture. Is this photographer’s work what you want? Does it match your photo style? Are they proficient at capturing the kinds of images you love?
Are their images the kind of photos you’ve always dreamed of having with you and your horse?
Now that I’ve given you my top four tips for picking the perfect photographer for you, it’s time to go out there and look for your perfect photographer! Do you have questions for me? I love meeting new people, especially new horse people, so don’t hesitate to call or email or find me on social media!