How to prepare for an equine portrait session

Pick a photographer. This is the fun part! There are hundreds, if not thousands of talented equine photographers across the United States, and most of them travel.

Pick a time and a place. Different shots and backgrounds require different locations. Black backgrounds are usually done in a barn aisle, while white and other color backgrounds are done against a solid surface. Your photographer should let you know ahead of time what they need so that you can make sure you have an appropriate space ready. If your farm can not accommodate an adequate setting, you might have to travel!

my white portraits are done here, with the windows closed

black background photos are done in a clean, dark aisle – sans puppers

Decide what type of photos you’re looking for. Are you looking for a specific shot to fill an empty spot on your wall? Do you want basic body shots? Artsy personality shots? This is YOUR shoot – you’re paying the photographer (very good money, likely) you tell them what you want. Pinterest is an awesome place to look for inspiration. Save a few photos to show the photographer day of.

You can check out my portrait inspo Pinterest board here!

Week before – test any new products. Having portraits done has me reaching for every product on the Dover shelves. Shine? Mine. If you have a sensitive horse like mine, you HAVE to test new products before hand. And spot test them! You don’t want to wash your horse the night before and get to the barn the morning of with a horse broken out in hives or losing chunks of fur.

If you choose to braid, and you’re doing them yourself – do a practice round! Freshen up your braiding skills. Unless your braids could pass as professional, I highly recommending hiring someone. Yes, it’s expensive – but trust me, there’s nothing more distracting than bad, ugly braids. You could have the prettiest horse in the world, but if one braid is wacky? That’s all I’m going to be able to see. You’re investing a lot of money into these photos already, you might as well make sure they’re perfect.

Gather props! Usually the photographer will bring a mirror with them to get your horse’s attention. If your horse is anything like mine, he’ll be uninterested after two minutes. Make sure you have other things around to get the ears up and the neck arched! Peppermint wrappers, grain buckets, anything slightly scary. My go to is a hot pink hair dryer. Gets West every time.

Day before – wash. Wash, wash, wash! Washing the day before gives the horse’s body a bit of time to restore those natural coat oils to produce a beautiful hair coat shine that you wash away when bathing. Washing the day before only works if the horse will stay clean overnight – make sure your horse has a fresh stall and a blanket/sleezy if necessary!

Clean tack! If your horse will be wearing any kind of tack in his shoot, make sure it’s clean! Just like the braids, one blemish or spot can ruin your photos! For me at least, once I see it – I can’t stop looking.

Day of – arrive at the barn well in advance. I’m talking at least three hours before the photographer is set to arrive. Especially if you’re having to braid, or having someone else braid. Do last minute grooming, and add the finishing touches to your horse. Run over your tack with a towel one more time.

Be upfront with the photographer about what you want. Have something that you’d like photoshopped or tweaked in the editing process? Tell them. Show them the photo inspo you have saved from Pinterest. Is there something you’d like to avoid in the photos? Tell them – the photographer should be able to work your horse in a way that imperfections are not noticeable.

Last but not least, enjoy the session! This isn’t something most people do often, so make sure it’s fabulous!

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