Have you ever had a professional equine photographer take photos of you with your horse? If you haven’t, you’re missing out. Professional equine portrait sessions are more than a chance to dress up and look pretty on horseback; they’re also a way to preserve permanent reminders of what life is like with your best friend.
But depending on your personality, the prospect of being the star of your very own portrait session could feel like the best day ever – or it could seem like a nightmare! Trust me, I get it. As an equine photographer who’s notoriously camera-shy herself, I love hiding behind my camera. But at the same time, there’s nothing I adore more than looking through my camera and seeing your love story. That’s because horse love conquers all, including your nerves. And if you love your horse as much as I know you do, then there’s simply no excuse for not getting in front of that camera and strutting your stuff.
But if you’re camera-shy and you’re still not convinced that a portrait session is a good idea, I’ve got good news for you. In this blog, I’m sharing my five favorite tips for how to feel like a rock star in front of the camera. And yes, while these tips may be introvert-tested and approved, they’re also great tips for extroverts.
- Befriend your photographer. Hands-down, I feel more confident in front of the camera when it’s being held by someone I know. That’s because I’m not worrying about what they think of me or if they’re secretly judging me (newsflash: no photographer is ever judging you); instead, I already know they think I’m awesome, and then I feel awesome. Plus, most horse photographers are nice horsey people who love making friends with other horsey people.
Another great benefit to making friends with your photographer is learning all about their style, from how they run their business to how they conduct a session to how they edit and deliver your photos. Even if you don’t plan on being best friends with your photographer, I strongly encourage you to do your research along these lines. Look at your prospective photographer’s past work. Do you like the poses they choose? The locations they use? The type of editing they do on their photos? If you don’t, that photographer may not be right for you, so keep shopping. Every photographer has his or her own style, and there are plenty of talented equine photographers out there to choose from.
- Make it all about your horse. If there’s one place on earth you feel happiest, it’s with your horse. Focus on your horse before, during and after your session. Getting your horse photo-ready already takes time, so use that time wisely to center yourself. I always advise my clients to get to the barn early so they can do the following tasks with their horse before I show up:
- Lunge your horse for about 15 to 20 minutes, or longer if he’s feeling extra fresh. Even the sleepiest pony can perk up when a strange person with strange equipment shows up, so don’t underestimate the power of exercising your horse beforehand. Your horse will be more likely to stand quietly for photos, too.
- Bathe your horse the day before the shoot or the morning of the shoot so that he has time to dry, then groom him thoroughly. If you like the braided or banded look, pay a professional to do the work for you – or if your horse has a long, flowing mane and tail, make sure it’s brushed to perfection.
- Once your horse is all dolled up, put him somewhere safe – like tied in the stall or cross-tied in the aisle – and give him a snack so he’s not hungry during the session.
- Set your tack out where it’s easy to grab and give it a final polish with a cloth so it’s ready to go when you are.
- Channel your inner rock star. Got a favorite lip color? Love the way your hair looks up – or down? Have friends told you how phenomenal you look in that dress? Perfect. You’ll feel your best when you look your best, and there’s no better time to look your best than for a photo shoot. If you’re unsure about an outfit, ask a trusted friend (or your photographer) to help you decide what to wear and how to wear it. Ask your friend to come to your session and be your beauty assistant. Let her know she’s in charge of fixing your hair, adjusting your outfit or making funny faces at you from behind the camera.
- Communicate with your photographer. We all make faces that we don’t love or have poses we hate, but your photographer doesn’t know your quirks unless you tell her. Don’t be afraid to communicate your preferences so that she can let you know when you’re making “that face.” Here are other things you should always tell your photographer:
- “My horse needs a break/I need a break.” If she’s a good equine photographer, chances are she already knows – but tell her.
- “I don’t feel safe standing this way/doing this/posing like this.” Safety should always be everyone’s priority during a shoot.
- “Can I see how that shot looked?” Most photographers love showing back-of-camera glimpses to the model during the session, so don’t be afraid to ask.
- “I want to try this pose.” I love when my clients have pose ideas. My only caveat is that if it’s a complicated pose (such as barefoot, bareback and leaning back on your horse’s haunches), please practice that pose with your horse beforehand so you know it’s safe.
- Remember, it’s your day. Equine portrait sessions are all about you and your horse. This is your chance to look and feel like the cover of a magazine, so don’t let nerves get in the way of enjoying your day. If you stay relaxed, you’ll look relaxed in your photos and your horse will follow your lead and relax, too. Here are a few other tips for feeling relaxed during your shoot:
- Laugh more – it’ll release feel-good endorphins, plus laughing pictures are some of the cutest pictures.
- Plan something fun for after your shoot (like buying dinner for your beauty assistant friend).
- If you’re feeling awkward posing next to your horse, ask if you can do some riding pictures. Horses are happier with their feet in motion, and you’ll feel more relaxed and joyful doing your favorite activity with your best friend, which will translate to the photos.
Whether you’ve spent twenty years with your heart horse or you’re just becoming acquainted with your new show partner, a portrait session is the perfect method for documenting your life together. You owe it to your horse and to yourself – so go book your favorite equine photographer today.