Equine Photography: Its All About The Light Part I

Light is the most important aspect in equine photography, this is not limited to equine photography, but all photography.  After all in the Greek language photo means light, and graph means draw.  So when we take a photograph we are drawing with light.  So even if you never take your camera off auto, you can learn to use light to obtain the best possible  image with the knowledge you have on the use of light.

There is a reason photographers like to take photos in the early morning or late evening, commonly known as the golden hours.  The light is the best at these times and there are several reasons why. The sun is lower, so the ozone is thicker, so the light is softer, diffused and easier to control. Morning light usually has more pastel colors where the evening light has warmer tones. Scheduling a time to take photographs during these times is always a good plan, but what about those spontaneous photos. Here are a few tips.
Taken late morning late summer,
partly cloudy day.
See diagram below for setup

First off you must know were your light sources are coming from.  Where is the sun?  Is there anything reflective; sand, the side of a  building, water, a concrete driveway, you would be surprised where your light can come from. Where are the shadows?  The direction of the shadows will be your biggest indicator of your main light source.
Bright sunny days can always cause a problems especially mid-day when the sun is directly over head.  Dark shadows are everywhere and cannot be avoided.  If you are doing a portrait with a person and a horse, find some heavy shade.  It will soften the human subjects face and help prevent squinting. This is why cloudy days are the best for doing horse/human portraits.  If you are photography just horses, shade is not as important since horses really don't squint and the sun does help bring out the shine of the coat too. There are still shadows though.  The shadows I am talking about are not the ones that are cast on the ground, but the shadows on the actual body of the horse. The shape of the horse can cast shadows on the underline, under the bulging muscles and under the head and neck.  This can cause problems on dark horses and they can loose their definition. Put your back to the sun and the horse directly in front of you.  You will see the shadows, so position the horse were you can get minimal shadows, being mid-day you will get shadows regardless. This is where finding other light sources help, try to find reflective surfaces we spoke of earlier.  Use a concrete pathway or driveway to reflect light to the underside of the horse- a bright side of a building can help also. Some of the shadows will still be there, but not as evident. The difficult part is get everything, especially the horse, into position and still keeping a clean attractive background.

Learning to use your available light to your advantage can be a big help in getting better images with what you have on hand. I do suggest to learn more about photography and learn the functions of your camera to improve your skills even more.

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