Equine Photography: Its All About The Light Part II

As I mentioned in Part I early morning and late afternoon/early evening, just hours after sunrise and before sunset is the best times for creating beautiful images.  This time is also commonly known  as the Golden Hour because of the wonderful soft even light that can be found at this time. Photographing in the harsh mid-day sun can give unwanted shadowing hiding details and may over-exposed parts of your image and colors seem somewhat muted and hazy. Sunrise vs. Sunset is personal preference, but I like to photograph grey and black coat colorings in the morning, since the morning light has more pastels and blue tones. While red and gold tones are more prominent with the warmer tones at sunset. This is the normal with sunrises and sunset, but not the rule and you can never fully predict Mother Nature.

Learning to use the golden hour will greatly help improve the quality of your images, no matter what your subject is.  By positioning yourself in different angles from the sun, there is several different ways to use this light.  The following images are taken at different times of day from morning to dusk to give an idea of the use of light.

Taken early morning on a partly cloudy day.  Love the stillness of mornings! Sun was directly behind me.

Taken mid-day, lots of  distracting contrast and shadows that hide details and we have some overblown highlights and over exposed background.

Late afternoon light gives a soft light with some shadowing, which actually gives some depth to your subject, but doesn't over blow highlights or cause too much contrast that takes away details. Sun was behind me at a 45 degree angle. Look at the shadows for the suns direction.

Soft late afternoon early evening light gives even soft diffused light with even tones without harsh shadows or blown out whites. Sun was at my back at approximately a 45 degree angle.  You can see a soft shadow behind the horse to give an idea of the light direction

Taken 1 hour before sunset with the sun 45 degrees behind subject. Once again using the trees to diffuse the light slightly. The subject has a nice back-light giving a rim light effect, but still maintaining some of the details of the subject and having a small amount of sun-flare.  Also gave light to the insects in the image.

By putting your subject between the sun and yourself, you can create and nice silhouette, with a lot of sun-flare and rim-light around your subject. You may also get some very warm colors.  Shooting directly into the sun makes it difficult for your camera to focus, so you may need to resort to manual focus.  A very clean lens makes focusing easier.  The trees were used to diffuse the light and help in focusing.

Taken right after sunset giving a silouhette, with nice soft warm colors in the background,