The Ultimate Equine Photography Guide

portrait-image6Mackenzie Szabo Photography  who has been a feature photographer many times in Show Horse Today has been kind enough to share her guide on equine photography so we can all up our Instagram or home photo game! Be sure to check out her new site The Ultimate Equine Photography Guide for weekly updates and tips on photography as well as suggestions and examples for poses you will love! 

The variations between different types of equine photography make it one of the most challenging and fascinating types of pet photography. There are many aspects to consider before starting to take pictures of horses. This horse photography guide will help you develop skills not only to interact with horses and their owners, but also find the most efficient way to create beautiful portraits that will showcase your photography.

Get to know your subjects

At each photo shoot, the photographer must ask the client what specific types of photographs they wish to receive. When speaking with the client, the photographer should discuss the horses personality. If you are not comfortable around horses, it is important to realize that they are instinctual animals and as the photographer, you should know their basic body language in order to stay safe during your photo shoot. Horses can spook easily. Therefore, any type of flashes, props or even the slight click of a camera shutter can spook a horse. Horses may bite or kick, so a discussion should take place with the owner before handling or getting too close to your subject. A good equine photographer must have a lot of patience dealing with such animals.

Not only should you be aware of the potential dangers when handling horses, you must also consider what characteristics make a great equine photo. The photogapher should try to capture the horse in its discipline or event and at the same time, ensure the client is happy with the final product.

The Equipment

Pony Portrait

Some of the essential equipment needed to complete a successful equine photoshoot include:

  • A fast high quality camera
  • A telescopic lens
  • Light reflectors as required
  • Props for getting ears up (mirrors, noisemakers, buckets with treats)
  • Flash equipment if needed

While the type of camera that you choose to use can vary between the type of event you are photographing, it is very important that you have a telescopic (over 50mm) when photographing horses. (I find a Canon 5D Mark III and a 70-200mm lens works perfectly.) If you use a smaller lens, it is likely that your equine photos will become skewed and the horse’s head will appear to be larger and unproportional.

Equine Portrait Photography

Another important aspect of doing equine portraits is the horse’s expression and body positioning. In general, all photos should have the horse’s ears forward and if a complete body shot is taken, the horse should be photographed with all four legs visible. The photographer must ensure that the horse is photographed in front of a uncluttered background such as in the front entrance of a barn or in a clean farm field. These often make fantastic backdrops.

Zips Heaven Sent Paint
Portrait in wheat fieldPortrait of Two Horses

Not only should you be aware of the backgrounds, you should also be aware of the time of day you plan to do your photo shoot. The best type of lighting can be found either early in the morning, or later in the evening before sunset. This gives you a nice golden color to your images and reduces the amount of harsh shadows.

Before you begin your equine portait session, it is important to have a good idea of the various poses and portraits that both you and the owner would like. Horses can get impatient and bored quickly, so having planned poses will help make your shoot more efficient.

Equine Event Photography

There are many different disciplines when it comes to equine event photography and each event or equine breed has it’s own photo standard. For example, there is a large difference in the way that an American Quarter Horse would be photographed in comparison to an American Saddlebred.

Saddlebred Trot                   Hunter Under Saddle Trot

Breeds such as the American Paint Horse, American Quarter Horse and Appaloosa (often called stock breeds) are usually photographed at the trot/jog with the two closest legs outwards, and the two furthest legs inward. These breeds are also commonly photographed at the lope, with the front inside foot extended at the furthest point.

Western Pleasure Jog Hunter Under Saddle CanterDressage Trot

Breeds such as the American Saddlebred, Morgan, Arabians and Hackney Ponies focus primarily on the trot gait. This means that when they are trotting, photographers must take the photo with the outside front leg at it’s highest point. For these breeds, this photo features their horse’s impressive regal gait.

Arabian Horse Trotting
Hackney Horse TrottingSaddlebred Horse Trotting

Mackenzie Szabo is a photographer and graphic designer specializing in equine related products. She captures the unique bond between humans and their equine partners to create memories that will last a lifetime, as well as creating eye-catching logos and advertisements for equine professionals. 

Currently residing in Edmonton, Alberta, Mackenzie shows her APHA Gelding ‘PP Im Chiparific’ while also pursuing equine photography and graphic design. She is currently attending NAIT for web design and development, in order to supplement her current graphic design and photography skills. Many of her advertisements and photographs have been featured in various publications such as Show Horse Today,  Rodeo Connection, Go Mag, GreenHawk and Equine Chronicle. 

To see Mackenzie’s beautiful portfolio visit