The Perfect Horse Portrait

We all want that absolutely amazing shot of our equine friend, with perfect lighting and stance, ears forward and a glistening healthy coat. The weather needs to be perfect too to achieve the ultimate result. It is a huge misconception that if the sun is out it makes for a great shot. Sadly this isn't always true, and quite often if there is too much sun it will create unwanted shadows and encourage flies. Ideal weather conditions are usually on a cloudy day or what I like to call "lightbox days". The sun is defused through the clouds and portrays a much softer light. If it is sunny, then an early morning shoot or a late afternoon shoot is best. You need the sun at the correct angle and level in the sky. If its too high you will absolutely have shadows that give clients an "uncle fester" look, not the desired look I'm sure. Unless it's a themed Adams Family shoot, in which case I'll go for it.

So how can we control light and have it work with us and not against us? This is where Prestige Equine comes into play. Using our method of lighting, in a controlled environment, we can create beautiful images that are worthy of hanging above your fireplace. Our images naturally position themselves amongst the greatest equine portraits available on the market.

This is all down to light planning, positioning and a controlled environment. We have used our knowledge from the studio and combined it with your knowledge of horses to achieve the ultimate portrait. I can hear you say; "Isn't photographing a horse a little different to photographing a human in the studio?" and of course you're right! Horses are a lot different but the principle of lighting is the same. We just need to adapt our distances and placement of the lights to accommodate the larger subject.

When we plan the shoot we need to evaluate the area and create a strategical 'walk in walk out' safeguard. We like the idea of a horse being able to walk into the desired location and easily walk out the other side. We want the horse and handler to be safe at all times and comfortable with the process. It is essential there is an 'escape route' in place should they need it. The controlled environment has to be indoors, this could be a large barn, store area or an indoor arena. We do not take up a lot of space so in theory, if we set up inside an indoor arena, others could ride and use the space. We tend to stay at one end, close to an electricity source. They would just need to be made aware of the occasional flashing. We use two professional strobe lights attached to two box light diffusers. One light is our "main light" and always has a larger box attached. The other light is our "fill light" this has a smaller box attached and will work on filling the areas the main light cannot reach. Sometimes one light is enough but we like our subjects to be well lit and it helps with more choice when we come to edit. Behind the horse is the signature black backdrop that is key and essential for this procedure. The floor is usually the arena surface and raked well so it is flat.

Here is an example of what the set up looks like.


When we commence the shoot, we like to prepare the horse and make sure they are comfortable with the lights flashing. We get them to walk around while we do test shots with the horse and handler gradually getting closer. Before they know it, they are standing exactly where we want them and the shoot is underway. We find this the best way to get them used to the strobe lights.

The shoots itself is 30 minutes in duration, which is plenty of time for horse and handler. Any longer and attention spans would dip off somewhat. Editing takes around a week, sometimes a little less. Here's a before and after to illustrate the editing involved. Editing these shots are as important as the prep for the shoot itself.

Straight out of the camera.


Equine / horse photography portrait southampton

Post editing finished piece ready for printing on to a canvas.


Equine / horse photography portrait southampton

We use Adobe Lightroom as well as Adobe Photoshop CC to process and aid in completing the perfect portrait.

If this inspires you to book your horse with us please feel free to email:

Call / text - 07475 646654. You can even follow us on Instagram - harvey_portrait_studio_hants and add us as a friend on facebook -

We look forward to booking more equine friends and creating more fireplace worthy portraits.

By Sarah Harvey

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