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Behind The Scenes - Part 2

Well, the first post seem to go down very well, it's bought you some questions that I was happy to answer as well as hopefully educating both other photographers and clients alike. So, here is the second installment!

The most daunting thing for me when I first started out, was having the confidence to direct people on how to pose. It might sound like something so small - surely I don't need to tell people how to stand? Also, having the ability to adapt to each situation was a learning curve - making sure both horse and owner are kept as safe as possible. Perhaps one of the horses was very figety or didn't like having his face touched; these problems aren't uncommon when I photograph so I need to be able to think on my feet, come up with poses, adapt them to the situation whilst trying to maintain the consistency of my style as well as creating beautiful, treasured photographs.

The pressure of the shoot can sometimes get to people. Whilst they may not be overly nervous, and my previous clients will agree it's a very relaxed affair - most of you, at the back of your mind will feel a little self-concious. You won't be the first and you won't be the last to say that to me, I promise! At some point no doubt your head will be filled with a thousand images, questioning every single aspect of your position, where your hands are and where to look. Additionally, part of my job is to assure you that I am doing everything I can to make your images come across as relaxed, natural, beautiful and flattering as possible!

Don't be afraid to place hands where you'd like, or give directions - after all, your client has hired YOU for the job. Here's a basic outline of what goes through my mind during a shoot ...


Being an equine photographer makes me very lucky when it comes to posing; most people are often very concious as to what their hands are doing. One of the obvious "props" an equine photographer can use is the horse!

Placing your clients hands on the reins is a logical starting point. I often ask them to hold the reins in the hand furthest from the horse and then their remaining hand should be the one they use to interact with the horse; be it placing the hand under the chin, back, withers or face. In some cases though, when the horse is a little flighty, they may wish to have both hands on the reins which too is absolutely fine. The important thing here is to make it look as though each hand has been placed exactly and has a purpose.

Be careful to have a good look at the whole picture. Don't let one small thing ruin the image, be patient and set each pose up how you'd like. The reins should be folded neatly in one or both hands. On the subject of tack, before each shoot, have a quick look yourself to make sure the bridle is correctly done up and all straps fastened in the keepers. Keeping an eye on the horses mouth too is also something I've learnt! Be sure to grab any food from their mouth, unless the shot allows for it of course and wipe away any excess froth.

Adding variety to the images is important. Whilst it's easy to vary the background and outfits, varying the angle and pose is something you should consider too. Each location is different, but you can work with the location to help with posing your cilent.

Trees are also great "props" too - whether they're sitting on a fallen log, leaning against a tree or you use the trees to break up an image.

Arms and Legs

There are two points I want to make here, let's start with the legs: bending the front leg creates a more natural, relaxed and casual appearance. This pushes the weight on to the back foot, creating an S shape in the back, which naturally helps show off their figure. You may also wish to position your client at a slight angle towards the camera, again to flatten their figure.

My second point is about the arms - something I recently observed, it probably seems a very minimal point but after seeing several images during a webinar about posing, I really valued the point being made and the subtle difference it created. I'll have to see if I can set up a shot to illustrate this point. When posing a model, the arms should never be at a right angle. By this I mean, the joint at the elbow should never leave the fore-arm in a horizontal position, providing the clients back is straight. This is because, asthetically, the right angle is a harsher line, often assosciated with support and rigid structures. You want to make your images seem natural, soft and relaxed. One of the ways to emphasise this point is to have a large angle between the inside of the elbow joint, or, a very acute angle. This position is a more natural position to be in, those of you who like to read body language will know that crossed arms (resulting in a right angled joint) makes the subject come across as defensive - which is definately not something you want to feature in your photographs!

Constantly, I am thinking about soft, flowing lines throughout my images. You want to be able to see the wrist in the image too so you don't just have a floating "claw" hand emerging from behind the horses neck/back or face.


A straight, but not rigid back should be kept throughout the shoot, with your shoulders back. This elongates the frame and makes sure you don't look hunched over. Another clever thing to do, is allow a slight inward curve in the back especially if the subject is leaning up against a solid object. (Think of an S shape) The light passing through this space between, for example, your client and the wall, helps give the illusion of a sleeker frame.

If you are asking your client to lean in to their horse, make sure they are bending from the waist, rather than hunching their back.

The positioning of the horse is also important. I love horses to be stood up tall, square and with their ears pointing forwards. The ocassional ear flicked back is also lovely, to show they are listening to their owner. I think the difference between having the ears forward and ears back is the difference between a good and a great shot! ... Perhaps this will be the third in the series of behind the scenes blog post?

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