May you take a photo of me and my horse..

While I was thinking what to write for the next blog and scrolling through the channels on the SKY box (other boxes are available) I found myself watching the Horse & Country channel and the Jumping World Cup. This brought back memories of my wife and daughter, spending endless hours preparing and practicing for shows among other horse related activities.

Not photographing horses was never going to be an option for me as most parents with a child or children that love their horses will know. Especially those that are learning or doing some type of competition with their beloved companion.

Most of my weekends whether it was sunny, raining or snowing were spent in a field watching horses running around, jumping fences or refusing to get back into their trailers after the day was done.

Then on the days that a competition was on, it was usually down to me and most of us have been there, to make sure that I had lots of photos of not just the daughter jumping but sometimes her friends.

Nowadays, our horse is too old to go competing and spends its life like we all will be doing one day; standing in a field, eating grass and waiting to be led in for our dinner.

Although not a horse person myself my wife has always been and my daughter is now a BHS Instructor. So here it is, my blog for you on tips for taking better photos of horse and rider.

Now I know nearly all of us take videos of the event but how long is it before these videos are forgotten or deleted to make space for even more videos?

Wouldn’t it be nice to take an image that is good enough to frame or put on the wall and is not an impulse buy on the day and then relegate to a drawer, or a small low quality image that is taken from a hard working photographers’ website with a watermark running through the center? (There is a whole other post which could be written on why you should not do this.)

Having done a few of these events I do understand that not everyone can afford the additional expense of paying for a print at the show with all the other expenses that go with having a horse and rider. However, wouldn’t it be nice if you could show them an image you have taken yourself on the back of your camera. Then, take it home, print it, go to the shops, choose a frame and see it every day. As time and events go by you can watch your collection grow, knowing that you took these photos and, every time you gaze upon them you will have the memory of that moment you pressed the button on the camera and not the one that someone else gave you.

For those who own a digital or DSLR camera here are my few tips on taking better images that you would be proud to post and print.

The Camera

Your camera needs to have a Manual mode setting.
This will give you the greatest control of the end result and the best images.

The lens

Nearly every event photographer will say you need a good telephoto lens and that is true but let’s be honest not everyone has the sort of money required to buy one, unless you’re a professional or hobbyist. So, let’s stick to what you may have and that will usually be the lens the camera came with.

Be in the right place

I do not mean behind the jumps in the arena, what I mean is, if you are at a jumping competition and you want to take images of horses jumping over fences, then find a position that gets you the closest to a fence. Try not to be viewing the rear of the horse as it jumps. Position yourself so that you get a side or front view as these will show more of the rider and a more dramatic view of the horse. Once you have found the spot that you want to be in, you now need to work out a few other things.

If out-doors when positioning yourself, check where the sun is. Is it straight in front of you when you are going to be photographing? If yes you may need to find a different position.

If in-doors, how good is the light and will it get darker?

We already know that horses move quickly, so you will need a fast shutter speed, to get the horse and rider sharp and in focus. Remember, if the horse and rider are moving towards you then by the time it takes for you to focus and press the button they will have moved not only forward but up or down.

Practice before the event

Look at the camera manual if you are unsure what to do.

  • We will be adjusting three things:
  • Shutter speed, F-stop and ISO.
  • Set the shutter speed to 250th sec. – 500th sec. the higher the better.

Set the F-stop to f5.6 – f8.0 and remember if you have a zoom lens that does not have a fixed aperture then the F-stop will change as you zoom in or out. Pick a point and stick with it to stop this from happening.

  • Set the ISO to 100 or 200 depending on the camera; do not go lower than 100.
  • Set the focus point to spot, so that where the spot falls on the subject that is what is in focus.
  • TURN OFF the Pop-up flash if the camera has one.
  • Take a few shots, are they too dark or too bright?
  • If too bright then increase the shutter speed.If too dark there are two things you can do.
  • Increase the ISO, but remember the higher the number the more grainier (noise) your image will be, so see how high you can go before the image starts looking grainy.
  • Lower the F-stop but doing this will reduce how much is in focus.

Do this while your subjects are practicing at the yard or when they are having lessons (always ask the instructor first) before the event until you are happy with the above.

You are now ready

There are lots of other things we could do but let’s just stick with this for now. While the course is being set up or the rider is walking the course find yourself a safe spot to set up using the above steps and enjoy. Do not be despondent, if not all of the images are perfect because as always practice makes for a better photo..

Yes there are other camera settings

We know there are a range of other camera settings you could use, and our blog would be a small novel if we covered them all, so hopefully the above will get you thinking about where and how you take your images and have more fun in doing so.

Thank you for reading this post

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