As a passionate equine photographer, I aim always to highlight the relationship a horse and its rider share. However, to capture a portrait that reflects a pure bond and strong emotional connection, I mustn’t overlook the technical aspects that elevate a picture.
One of the most crucial aspects of capturing a beautiful photograph is the use of light. Unless you want the dramatic lighting for effect, evenly distributed light elevates a photograph to the next level.
When shooting conformation shots or anything else that requires basic, non-distracting light, placing your subject exactly in front of the sun with your back to the sun will result in an even, bright light. This type of fluorescent light is ideal for horses and other animals who aren’t impacted by direct sunlight onto their faces, though you should never encourage them to stare straight into the sun.
If you want to take a picture with a low brightness level, position the subject with the sun behind them and face the sun yourself. The light will fall gently onto the subject, creating a soft vibe of the overall image. This is a perfect opportunity to make “sunbursts” with the sun while lying low in the sky. The two best times to do this are an hour before and during sunset and an hour right after sunrise.
The gorgeous natural light you get during these peak hours is matchless- unlike any other time in the day.
Using partial light to achieve dramatic lighting is a terrific approach. Although I don’t use this technique too frequently, it can be a great way to accentuate specific aspects of your subject. They make for great black and white edits, so if they fit your aesthetic, you can even expand your editing skills.
When the sun hides behind the clouds, resulting in overcast light, it’s time for you, as an equine photographer, to capture beautiful shots of your horse! You have the chance to shoot in whichever direction you want since the light will be even and lucent. Many photographers enjoy shooting on an overcast day because the light softened by the clouds gives them great scope to click a unique, spectacular picture.
Remember: light is your key tool!
I strongly advise you to step outside and play with light the way you please. Be bold, be fierce! When it comes to light, horses are fairly forgiving subjects. They exude their strength and magnificence in any light, so the next time you go outside to capture your best friend, experiment with different light for varied results. Use direct light to emphasize your horse’s shine, or use partial light to experiment with the angles of his face. You have endless possibilities at your disposal; I’m excited to see what you come up with!
Jody Miller is a professional photographer specializing in Horse Photography, Equine Photography, and Equestrian photography. Her work can be viewed online here in her gallery section, and she is also featured at these Arizona Galleries: Van Gogh’s Ear Gallery on Whiskey Row in Prescott, AZ and Coops Coffee House at Talking Rock Ranch. Arizona Downs OTB Room offers few of my Canvas work and several images are also available at The Phippen Western Art Museum