Last summer I did a post about what I have in my camera bag - well after a bit of help from you guys over Christmas, I restocked my "goody" bag of items to get horses attention during the shoot. I have to admit, I did have a lot of fun scouting the pound shops and Amazon to find the most recent additions!
The best and most amusing item in the bag is the purple octopus - some horses love it, whilst others think it's a bit scary! I believe it's actually a dogs toy (and last weekend I did have a naughty dog run off with it!) but it definately gets the horses looking! It's legs rustle when you shake them and best of all, the head squeaks!
Anyway, what DOES a purple octopus have to do with equine photography? Well, it's super important that the horses look happy in the images! And this is why it's so important to hire a horse lover to photograph you and your horse - because WE understand your horses body language. Not only does this help make the shoot run smoother but it also allows us to create much more appealing images! I'm sure you've all seen some of those horrific fashion/perfume adverts involving horses, all with their ears back and in turn have CRINGED at them, it's obvious the horse was used as a prop, rather than actually being part of the shoot!
There's so much to get right when photographing any subject, especially an animal, such as a horse. One of the fundamental things you need to get right is that the horse has a natural, happy, relaxed expression - it can make or break an image. An easy way to do this is to get their ears pointing forwards!
One of the first things I notice in an image is whether or not a horse as their ears forward, it sets the tone for the rest of the image. A content horse makes for a happy client and throughout the shoot I'm constantly assessing how the horse is reacting to what's being thrown at them (sometimes quite literally!) and swapping and changing around what we are doing to keep them interested and again, insuring that we reflect their character and nature within the images.
Obviously, there are some exceptions to this - when the horse is working for example, or if the horse is twitching it's ear backwards and forward to listen to their owner - but the key with the latter is that the horse is relaxed and still focusing on something. Having their ears forwards, softens their eyes and gives them such a lovely kind presence which ultimately is what the client wants you to capture!
Yes, it can be challenging at times to get a horse to put it's ears forward (and sometimes I do resort to a bit of photshopping!) but working that little bit harder and being patient to get the expression you want from the horse is so rewarding when you look back at the images! There's nothing worse than having a bored looking horse in the images! A bored horse makes for uninspiring images!
Having something the horse can focus on and follow also allows the photographer to be more dynamic with their posing and set up, that's why it makes my life so much easier when there's an extra pair of hands on the ground to move around and get the horse looking left, right, higher or lower. If it's just me on my own, I do my best to leaves or objects one way or another to look where I want them but it's never as effective has having someone who's able to walk around for me!
Often they'll just have their full attention on whatever it is we are using to distract them, or a passing lorry or horse in the field, for just a few seconds so I have to be super quick to get the shot! Food is the best tool to use but after a while, we need to swap and change what we are using to get them to focus, the squeaky octopus has worked wonders in doing this!
To conclude, being aware of a horses body language and what they're telling you is so imporant if you want to capture the best images! Understanding your subject is vital no matter what you're shooting! You want your images to stand out and highlight why they should choose you, as an equine photographer to photograph their horse; any horse owner will notice subtle things about their expression and emotion of the horse, that most "normal" folk wouldn't, and trust me, you can tell the difference between images taken by an EQUINE photographer who knows what they are looking for, compared to, say, a landscape photographer who knows NOTHING about horses! I pride myself on the fact that I can read what a horse is telling you through their stance and the angle of their ears and that's why on so many ocassions people have said they've chosen me, as an equine photographer, over a wedding/newborn photographer who advertises that they photograph horses!