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Equestrian Photography Guide

Horse and rider photography is one of the most beautiful ways to capture the bond with your horse, and this equestrian photography guide will walk you through how to prepare, what to wear and what to expect while taking pictures of you and your horse.

What is equestrian photography?

Equestrian photography technically means photos related to horse riding. You’ll find photos from horse shows, black background portraits and my specialty — photos of the horse and rider, images that really highlight that incomparable bond.

Why take horse and rider photos?

Most horse owners only have iPhone photos, and even those usually depict just the horse — not the way you and your horse interact, or what your day-in-and-day-out activities look like together. That’s why I love horse and rider photography. You get lifestyle images that truly depict your connection, and the way you share time beyond any shows or other official events you may participate in together.

What to wear for an equestrian photography session

I recommend 2-3 outfits, as this gives variety in your photos. Consider the following:

  • A flowy dress that gives more movement and interest in your images, and it looks great when the wind kicks up
  • An outfit you’re comfortable riding in, like a show outfit with tall, polished boots
  • Jeans and a top that feels like you, and cowboy boots if you’d like

It’s also ideal to get your hair and makeup done. Nothing too heavy, just a naturally beautiful look that helps you feel more confident in the session.

Family photos with your horse — a group of four children smile as they stand next to their ash gray horse

How to prepare

On the day of the session, you’ll need to prep your horse, or ask someone else to do that for you. If you’re prepping the horse yourself, leave plenty of time for you to get ready too! And don’t wear the same clothes to the shoot that you plan on wearing while getting the horse ready.

1. Work the horse

Most horses need to be worked right before the session, especially if they’re the type that need to release some energy. You know your horse best.

2. Brush and groom your horse

After you’ve worked your horse, make sure they’re completely groomed and brushed. If you’re used to preparing your horse for competitions, follow those same procedures!

  • Brush your horse, and comb out the mane and tail
  • Clean the hooves
  • Use a soft, wet cloth to wipe the face (eyes, muzzle, ears)

Equestrian photography at golden hour with a female horse rider wearing a floral dress

What to bring

For the horse

  • Brush
  • Treats
  • Baby wipes
  • Fly spray
  • Saddle (usually they’ll get on the horse bareback)
  • Show bridal
  • Leather halter
  • Lead line

For the rider

  • 2-3 outfits
  • Hairbrush
  • Hairspray
  • Makeup touch up kits
  • Water
  • Snacks
  • A bag to carry it all in

Don’t forget to bring an extra pair of hands

While most photography sessions don’t need outside help, an equestrian photoshoot is different. We absolutely need someone else there to help with the horse. You can invite a barn assistant, family member or friend to help. If you can’t bring someone, please let your photographer know!

Equestrian photography with two horses — the rider bareback on one horse and holding the lead line of another horse

What to expect while taking horse and rider pictures

1. Ease into it

We want you and your horse to feel comfortable, so we’ll start by easing into the session with casual poses and simply walking the horse around.

Don’t be nervous if the horse isn’t cooperating the way you want them to. We can take the time to work through that. Eventually, it will happen. We can take a break, walk them around. If they’re feeling stressed in the field, then maybe we go closer to the barn (sometimes they relax when they know they’re closer to the stall). We’ll pay attention to what will make them more comfortable.

This can take some time, but if we don’t rush it, the rest of the session will turn out beautifully!

2. Take face-to-face portraits

We’ll usually try to get some more intimate shots of you and your horse face to face as we get further into the session. These are always a hit!

3. Let’s ride!

I recommend ending the shoot by riding your horse. This is also a great opportunity for an outfit change. (Some photographers like myself have changing tents available so you don’t have to go far to swap outfits.)

4. Head back to the barn and attend to your horse

Once we’re done, please make sure to save enough time in your day to take the horse back home for some post-photo care. This might be a day in which you don’t schedule anything else, just photos and time with you and your horse.

Equestrian photography ideas

Excited already? Here are some photos to inspire you.

As a Boston portrait photographer, these photos usually hit the top of the charts for me. The connection, the fun and my favorite — horses. I love the meaning it all holds.

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