My first tip for preparing for your shoot is probably to ask questions! Ask questions in advance so that you can make the most of your shoot, rather than leaving it until the day. It could make such a difference to the running of your shoot, should you feed your horse beforehand, how you look or perhaps the location of your shoot. Make sure you know how the photographer works, what type of clothes they suggest, how you should turn your horse out. All of this information is given to my clients beforehand - the chances are, you’ve probably not had a photoshoot before, and for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy having their picture taken, it’s really nerve wracking. I do my absolute best to make the shoot as relaxed and stress free as possible, but the more you know in advance, the more relaxed you’ll be on the day. I’ve tried to think of all the little things you might forget and some little tricks I’ve learnt over the years to make the most of your shoot, but if there’s anything you’re not sure of, don’t be afraid to ask!
Clean your tack! It might seem obvious, but when you’re caught up in making sure your horse is clean, they’ve then gone and rubbed themselves along the fence, or managed to lie down in that one poo you forgot to remove from their stable, things can easily be missed! It’s amazing how distracting a small piece of dried grass on the edge of the bit can be! Take your tack home the night before, give it a good once over, finish it off with a little polish or oil and then pop it back in your car. A nice clean bridle can make all the difference! Whilst I can remove blemishes in Photoshop, it’s far easier for us both if everything’s clean beforehand. The same goes for headcollars, lead lines/ropes and your saddle. I always suggest to people to bring their saddle along to the shoot, even if they’re planning to have a sit bareback. You never know what horses can be like on the day, it’s much better to have that shot with your saddle on, to keep you that little bit more secure, than miss the opportunity altogether.
This follows on nicely from my point about the tack, I always suggest bringing more than you need. Bring your leather headcollar, just in case you fancy some more casual shots. Bring your bridle, just in case your horse needs just a little bit of extra control on the day. Of course, this also includes your outfits. My 2 hour shoots are typically divided up around the outfits you have to hand. Before the shoot begins, I’ll ask you to show me around the location, this is when we can talk about a brief plan for the session. I’ll try and match outfits to the locations, for example: If you’ve got your competition gear, they’re more likely to fit in to the surroundings of a yard, around the arenas , rather than out in the woodland. I suggest 3 outfits for your shoot – something casual, something smart and something in between. This varies between client to client, some want to wear just the one outfit, some will bring tonnes of accessories to give varying looks, without actually having to get changed. This is an extra point in itself: scarves, hats, jackets and changes of boots are a great way to add some extra textures, colour and finishes to your outfit. If you’re not quite sure what you want to wear – bring it all, I’ll help you make a decision on the day! (It’s always handy having an extra top or trousers on hand, just in case you get dribbled on or a splatter of mud!)
Having someone on hand to help out during your shoot is a massive, massive help! It will allow us to add so much more variety to the shoot – they’ll be able to move around behind me, off to the side or even in the distance to get your horse looking different directions. This enables us to be so much more creative with the positioning and posing of your photographs! It also means there’s someone there to hold your horse if needed, it’s a definite “must have” to make the most of your shoot! It’s also lovely having a familiar face on the ground to help make the shoot even more relaxed. Horses can start to switch off to the noises and silly dancing we do to get their ears forward, it can get very complicated for me having to throw things, compose shots and concentrate on giving directions too – so having someone on the ground who can wave buckets, leap about and if necessary, rustle bushes to get your horse looking happy is super valuable
Finally, my last tip would be about turnout, both for your and your horse, so it’s sort of two points rolled in to one! I’ll start with the easier bit – your horse!
Give your horse, or pony a good bath, several if they’re particularly grubby, even a week prior! Most people tend to give their horse a scrub the night before, so the horse is dry by the following morning. Wrap them up well overnight so they’re still (hopefully!) relatively clean the day of the shoot. Then you’ll have one less job to worry about, perhaps a couple of areas will need a little attention if they’ve got a small stain. Then a nice good groom, a touch of hoof oil and they’ll be ready for the shoot! When it comes to plaiting, it’s my personal preference to suggest that horses are left un-plaited. Plaits are for competition, and the shoot is all about capturing your relationship at home, or at your favourite location, so I much prefer the casual look, but of course, that’s totally up to you. If your horse is going to be clipped before the shoot, I’d suggest doing it a few weeks before the shoot. This gives time for their coat to slightly grow back and even out any of the marks left behind. The same goes for pulling manes and tails, I’d do it a few days, or a week or two before hand, just so the hair can grow out slightly!
You’ve probably worn yard clothes, or a layer over the top of your first outfit, so now it’s time to get yourself ready! Most people will have an idea of what they would like to wear for their shoot – there’s a little inspirations guide on my website for clients to have a nosey through. I usually suggest three outfits as I mentioned above, ranging from casual to something a bit smarter. Jeans are of course, the perfect solution to most outfit choices, you can dress them up or down with a blouse or Tee, a jacket, heels or flats. But most importantly, you should feel comfortable and happy in what you wear. And finally, I’ve already mentioned accessories, also you could bring some hair grips to do-up your hair for a few shots, just to change your look slightly throughout.
This blog was originally written for a feature with LME Bridlework, please check them out!