How do I groom my horse for a nice sales photo?
It’s always hard to sell a horse, but creating a great looking sales ad will help the process tremendously! The theme here is clean - clean horse, clean tack, clean rider, clean photo. It’s a lot like looking for a car - would you buy a car with a flat tire, dust you can see, and loaded with gum wrappers and coffee cups? Here’s your plan:
Get the horse ready!
Yes you want clean, you really want shine. Sometimes a fresh bath can strip the natural oils in your horse’s coat, so add a shine product or wait a day or two with lots of curry action to bring those oils back.
Tame the mane. You may be able to do this easily with a damp brush and some mane mousse, or you may need to spend some time with training braids. Or, just braid the mane in a discipline appropriate style.
A good example of a head shot. Soft eye, impeccable braids and bloom, neutral background. Taken with a gray sky.
Bang the tail, but only if it’s appropriate for the horse’s breed and/or job. Banging a hunter’s tail will be great if you don’t want to sell him as a hunter.
Clean and tidy face! No eye crust, no nostril goop, tidy ears.
Leg hair taming. For breeds that are naturally long feathered, keep ‘em long and sparkling. For that transition between “living outside all winter with a wooly coat” to “summer show ready”, grab your clippers and trim up the lower legs.
Speaking of wooly coats - midway through a shedding cycle is not the time to photograph your horse. You can wait a bit until the summer coat comes in, or go ahead and body clip your horse.
If you clip your horse, wait a few days and do some extra conditioning on him to bring back the shine.
You can photograph your horse when he’s wet. This adds some depth to his color, and may help the freshly clipped, pumpkin colored chestnut look more like himself.
For pete’s sake make sure your horse’s white is WHITE.
Get the tack and assistants ready! Well, hopefully any assistants can get themselves ready.
Even if you are not showing any “action” shots of your horse being ridden, take the time to thoroughly clean and condition his bridle and reins. He will just look prettier in his clean bridle instead of a halter and lead rope.
For riding photos, only use subtle saddle pads that are correctly fitted. Proper and neutral colored leg protection.
Natasha has it going on here! Clean. Tidy. Her outfit on point. Smile. Happy horse.
Get your helper ready! You may find that your horse’s conformation shot needs a helper, make sure that helper is dressed like a pro. Barn attire is ok, but make sure it’s neutral colored, matching, no logos, and clean. Tucked in polo shirt, belt, shined up boots. Same for the rider - the attention should be on the horse.
For the photos!
Use a DSLR camera instead of your phone. Avoid wide angle lenses as they can distort the picture. A zoom lens set at about 100-200 mm is fine for most shots.
Pick the best lighting. High noon with the sun above is the least flattering time of day, the sun is direct and harsh. Pick cloudy days or the first hours after sunrise or before sunset. This makes the light softer and diffuse, so your horse won’t have harsh light and dark shadows.
Taken at high noon on a sunny day. Portions of the photo are too light, others are too dark. You can barely see the horse!
This was also taken on a sunny day. BUT... the sun is behind me, which highlights the horse. A few hours later and the sun would have been too overhead.
Find level ground and a clean background. A field is perhaps the best background you can have, unless it’s full or cows or horses. Less distraction is best.
Take boatloads of photos, especially if you are not skilled at taking pictures. This applies more to action shots, as you want to be sure to show his gait at the best moment. Don't show a canter photo when he has his weight on his front foot.
Play around, and give yourself the option to do more than one “photo shoot” to get the most flattering pictures.
Practice grooming and taking pictures, and in no time you will have some great photos!