How to Photograph Pets: Capturing the Free Spirit of Horses

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  By Jonathan Ma
How to Photograph Pets: Capturing the Free Spirit of Horses


are one of my personal favorite things to photograph. Pet owners will all agree that each animal has their own personality. The goal of the photographer is to capture this personality on camera and create timeless memories, usually for the pet owner. The photographer’s success not only depends on their personal skill level and technological prowess in the photography field but also in their ability to communicate with the pet owner and the animal itself. For this reason, photographers who used to or currently take care of a pet at home will have much more success initially with pet photography than someone who has never had a pet before.

In today’s article, we will discuss tips for photographing pet horses. Horses are a majestic animal with beautiful hair and toned burly muscles. Horses have had a long history with humans for uses such as transportation of cargo items and people. In the past, horses have also been used in battles of the war. This is a big contrast to the relationship between people and horses today. Many people have horses as pets and love taking care of their animal, occasionally riding it around. This article will discuss the following tips:

  1. Include background context
  2. Invite other pet horses
  3. Focus on the mane
  4. Mount the pet horse

Include Background Context

Too often, a photographer will zoom in or use a telephoto lens to get a close-up, but then forgets to zoom out or switch lenses to be able to capture the surrounding area. Horses usually live outdoors. By capturing their living environment, the photographer tells the story of the pet’s life. Does the animal live in a small, fenced area? Or does it lives a large open pasture ground, feeding off of the environment? These can be answered through a well thought out photo. Normal angle or wide angle lenses are great for this purpose. It’s always a good idea to have at least one lens with a 35mm equivalent of a 35mm focal length to be able to take photos that are wide enough to see the surrounding elements in the scene.

The photo above illustrates the powerful effect of including background context in your photo. The mountains in the background are a beautiful backdrop to the majestic horse in the foreground. Bringing a pet horse to a location such as the above may take some advance planning, but it is well worth it in the end. A backdrop that includes mountains or other large terrain features increases the horse’s magnificence.

Invite Other Pet Horses

Animals travel together, eat together, and sleep together in the wild. Pets may not have this same routine, but the majority of pet horses like to spend time with other horses. Instead of just taking one pet horse out for a photo shoot, why not shoot them all together? The result will be a spectacular show of beauty, strength, and peace. The photographer should communicate with the owner(s) of the horses to see what they could coordinate with the animals. Simply instructing the horses to run on a path or trail like the photo is above is a great idea because it sets up the photographer to know where to focus and setup on composing the scene.

Focus on the Mane

The horse’s mane is one of the world’s most beautiful sights.  Take advantage of this fact when taking pet horse photos. By zooming in or getting close to the horse’s mane, the photographer can eliminate distracting elements in the scene and just focus on the mane. Remember that you’ll need to reach the height of the horse’s head, so some extra tools such as a stool or ladder may be required. Use an aperture such as f/2.5 or f/4.0 (depending on your distance from the horse) to blur out the background and create a nice bokeh effect.

Mount the Pet Horse

The final tip is to have the pet owner mount the horse! From there, they can give the horse various commands, such as a walk or trot forwards. By cropping out the person in the photo, the focus changes to the horse itself. This is a unique way to bring perspective to the horse, and not the owner.

Happy shooting!

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Jonathan Ma

Jonathan Ma is a freelance writer and professional photographer. He grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest of the United States. The natural beauty that surrounds this area has helped him to learn to appreciate art and photography. Jonathan's favorite styles of photography are nature and sports photography. He enjoys learning and teaching others what he knows.

Comments (1)

  1. Alberto Cadena Guest

    Excellent and direct advice, to the point.