How to photograph a horse for selling
Horse photography Selling a horse

These tips will have your horse looking like a model when you want to photograph him for selling7 min read

One of the most important things in your for sale ad, are the photos of the horse. Save yourself a lot of time and photograph your horse right the first time with these tips.

If you’ve got photographs taken by a professional photographer, check if your contract includes using the pictures for sale ads or if you’ve only bought them for personal use.

Whenever possible, use a camera instead of a smartphone to take the pictures and set the image quality to high for the best quality photos.

It doesn’t have to be an expensive DSLR, a good digital camera will do the job.

The best time of day to photograph your horse

When the weather is good, you should take the pictures outside because natural daylight is the easiest to use when you want your horse to look good.

Take your photos in the morning or in the afternoon to avoid harsh shadows from the midday sunshine.

Put the source of the light behind yourself, so that your horse is fully illuminated and so that you’ll avoid glare from the sun.

Always photograph a clean, dry horse

The correct position for taking a conformation picture of your horse.

There’s no need to turn your horse out as if he’s going to meet the Queen, with oiled hooves and a plaited mane.

So long as your horse is clean and tidy, it’s enough for prospective buyers to get a good look at him.

Also make sure your tack is clean and properly fitted to create a good first impression.

Clean tack is especially important if you want to sell the tack too – in which case you should take close ups of the tack while it’s on your horse.

When you photograph your horse ridden, make sure the rider is dressed smartly as well.

Clean clothes and washed boots will do, dirty or muddy clothes will detract from your horse.

Keep photos relevant to the advert

When you’re advertising a show-jumper, take pictures of your horse jumping. Either with a rider or free-jumping – or both when you’re asking a higher price.

When selling a dressage horse, take pictures of the horse doing dressage and flatwork.

When your horse is an eventer, include photos of flatwork and jumping over show jumps as well as cross-country fences.

Time your action shots right or use a multi-shot setting if your camera has one.

The best photos are when there’s a good momentum forward in the photo.

In trot, the best moment for a photo is when your horse’s hind leg and front leg are up. The other front leg should be fully extended to show the horse moving nicely forward.

The best canter photos are just before the moment of suspension when both front legs in the air.

Canter photos taken after the front legs have landed can make the horse look on the forehand.

You get the best jumping shots when your horse is travelling up towards the peak. Or alternately when he’s fully in the air above the jump.

Practice and take plenty of photos so that you’re sure to get good ones. You don’t want to publish your ad and realise that your horse looks less amazing than he is.

With the light source behind the horse, a dark face becomes almost invisible. A horse in mid-air just ends up looking like a flying meatball.

How to photograph your horse for a portrait or conformation shot

How to take a conformation or portrait picture of your horse.

Take portrait and conformation shots when your horse is fresh and alert and without sweat marks. Take portrait shots before riding shots!

Take pictures straight from the side. Photos taken at an angle can cause the proportions of your horse to look distorted.

You don’t want your horse to look like he has a conformation fault when he doesn’t.

Find a level and plain area that is free of any clutter. A solid colour wall is always a good idea.

When you can, choose a background colour that makes your horse look good. Horses often look good on yellow and green. A painted wall, field or patch of trees can work as a backdrop.

Generally dark horses will stand out on a light background, and light horses on a dark background.

Square the horse up so that he’s standing on all four legs evenly. Make sure every leg is visible in the shot.

Take the photo with the camera is level with the shoulder of your horse. When photographing small ponies kneel down or sit so that you don’t inadvertently take a photo from above making the legs look shorter.

Wait until your horse has his ears forward (or try to get someone to get his attention off-camera). Because a horse with the ears backwards will look dissatisfied at best. Ears forward will make him look friendly and attentive.

Other things to consider when photographing your horse for selling:

  1. Check that the backdrop for your photos is clutter-free. Remove unnecessary objects that make it look messy and take the eye away from your horse.
  2. Always take lots of photos so you have several photos from which to choose the best ones. If you rely on just one photo, you’re going to find out that it was the exact moment your horse blinked, stuck his tongue out or something happened in the background.
  3. Don’t take photos from too far away – ideally, the horse should take up at least 50% of the picture.
  4. Be critical when you’re looking through your photos. Choose photos where your horse looks friendly and attentive and where the horse and rider look harmonious. There should be nothing distracting in the background and the picture should show off your horse well.

When you’ve written your for sale ad, read through it and look at the photos from the perspective of a buyer.

Ask yourself if you’d go see that horse based on that ad.

Look through the pictures with a buyer’s mindset to see if there’s something that you can find fault with. Or something that gives a bad impression.

When you put in the time to write thoughtfully and make the ad as good as you can, you’ll have an easier time finding the right buyer. You won’t have to waste a lot of time talking to and showing your horse to a lot of people who aren’t serious buyers.

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