How I Manage Weather as an Equestrian Photographer

Helpful Tips

March 22, 2024

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What’s that saying? If you don’t like the weather in Oklahoma, just wait an hour and it’ll change!

As a natural-light photographer working with animals outdoors, the weather plays a huge role in my job and your equestrian portrait session. Over the years, I’ve developed some general guidelines (and a few superstitions) when it comes to predicting the weather or managing less-than-perfect conditions.

While I’m happy to reschedule based on your personal comfort level or desire for sunny skies, sometimes that’s just not possible. Such as: if I’m traveling, your schedule is busy, your horse is old or being sold, etc. 

Not to worry, though, I’ve worked in all types of (safe) weather conditions and still achieved images my clients loved.

My Weather-Watching Process:

I first check your session’s weather a week in advance, but I rarely worry this early as the forecast is bound to fluctuate. However I’ll check in with you if I’m concerned at all about the weather.

Note: If you’ve hired hair or makeup, discuss their rescheduling policy with them! If we have to make a decision to reschedule before, say, 48 hours, please let me know. 

I’ll check your weather again when we’re 48 hours out. If it’s still looking questionable, I’ll give you my suggestion but still defer to your preferences; you can opt to reschedule at this point, or we can wait and see.

At 24 hours, I’ll check an “iffy” day at the hourly level. Oftentimes the predicted conditions are happening before or after your session’s time.

If needed, we can even wait all the way up to the morning-of before calling it off—I can’t count how many times waiting this long has resulted in perfectly clear sessions! 

Weather Considerations

While some wind at your session can be great (I call it “Beyoncé wind” because it gives some ✨flawless ✨ windblown moments) …too much wind is a buzzkill. 

So when I watch the weather for wind, here’s my interpretation:

  •  0-10mph: no problem
  • 11-15mph: can be annoying but manageable; I’ll give my client the option to reschedule
  • 16-20mph: rescheduling is recommended, but we can make it work if necessary
  •  21+ mph: rescheduling highly recommended

As a client, you might want to reschedule due to 11+ mph wind if:

  • Your location has minimal wind breaks (trees, barns, etc) and 15mph+ winds are expected
  • Your horse is easily excitable and won’t relax at all with the added distraction
  • You’re set on wearing your hair down or wearing very unstructured clothing like a flowy dress (note: both these things look amazing with the “Beyoncé” wind I mentioned earlier!)

We’ll manage wind at your session by:

  • Being strategic with where we photograph around your location
  • Posing your horse to block the wind for you
  • Posing you and your horse to work with the wind and not against
  • Changing up your posing to help keep hair out of your face
  • Enlisting my assistant or a helper to manage your hair intermittently

I prefer to wait as long as possible before rescheduling for forecasted rain. But if it’s been raining heavily all week—or if multiple consecutive days of rain are expected—I won’t hesitate to reschedule.

Forecasted chance of rain 24 hours in advance: 

  • Less than 30%: no problem
  • 31–45%: Often means scattered showers. We can stick closer to your barn and wait out intermittent showers if needed!
  • 46–60%:  give my client the choice to reschedule now, or we can keep watching until morning. 
  • 61% and above: rescheduling highly recommended

I also consider what else is coming with the rain, like high winds. Any lightning is a safety issue that always requires rescheduling. 

Mud is much more manageable—for photographing, that is— than you might expect! However, it really depends on your location and image plans. 

We might reschedule due to mud if:

  • you plan on riding a lot and your arena is underwater
  • your property is primarily a dirt lot and it’s been raining for several days
  • the grass is so soggy your whole horse sinks down with every step
  • your horse throws shoes like confetti and your pastures are sloppy
  • your horse is very high-energy and your only place to longe is sloppy

In recent years, I’ve actually only had to reschedule once due to rain, and it was because the area was a primarily dirt lot and it had rained for six days prior. 

I also watch the forecast for clouds, as they affect how bright and sunny your portraits can be! Personally, I love a partly cloudy day more than perfectly clear skies because it usually means we’ll get a much more interesting sunset. 

We can even get great results on a very overcast day, however your images will have a different mood than my typical sun-kissed style. If you like high-contrast black & whites and more muted colors, then you’ll love an overcast day!

Cloud coverage forecast within 24 hours: 

  • Clear skies or partly cloudy: We’re all clear!
  • Mostly cloudy: I’ll check the hourly schedule & also gauge your preference. 
  • Very Overcast: I’ll defer to you and your image preferences. If possible, we may start an hour earlier to ensure we have enough light through the session.

Contrary to popular belief, winter months can still produce beautiful results! (See what I mean in my blog about seasons).

Whether or not cold temperatures require a reschedule is most often up to you, your horse and your wardrobe plans. After all, I’m able to bundle up like the Christmas Story kids if needed!

We might reschedule due to cold if:

  • Your horse is clipped and gets too cold or grumpy without blankets
  • Your ideal wardrobe doesn’t include cute layers like coats, sweaters, etc
  • It’s below freezing, there’s no snow to make it worth it, and you’d be miserable 

We can make a colder day work by:

  • Bringing HotHands to keep you warm — these large back ones work well under clothes!
  • Choosing warm layers for your outfits, or having a coat on standby to warm you up between locations
  • Removing signs of the cold—a red nose, obvious goosebumps, etc—via the magic of Photoshop!

Thankfully, Oklahoma doesn’t spend the entire summer in unbearable heat! Still, I often plan my out-of-state trips in the dead of summer to avoid the worst temperatures.

I rarely reschedule due to high temperatures, but we can make a hot day more comfortable by:

  • Planning lightweight materials or sleeveless tops for your outfits
  • Keeping you and your horse hydrated before and during your session
  • Using a trailer or office with A/C as your changing area
  • Using a handheld fan to cool you off between locations
  • Using plenty of makeup setting spray and having blotting sheets on hand as needed 
  • Opting for a sunrise session to utilize the coolest part of the day
  • Removing signs of the heat— like light sweat marks on your face or your horse—via Photoshop. 

You can be confident that you’re in good hands no matter what the weather throws our way!

Ready to make memories for yourself & your horse? Contact me to start planning your equestrian portrait session.

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