I recently put my money where my mouth is and booked a shoot with Texas-based equine photographer Kirstie Marie. I “needed” new shots of me with my camera for my website, and I “wanted” some beautiful photos of me and my heart horse together.
Here are six things I learned during my quick journey to the other side of the camera:
Gather Your Dream Team. Photographer Kirstie brought an assistant to help with ears up, and I had fantastic help in the form of my trainer Jess. The four of us got the job done just fine, but there were a couple times I wished I had brought one more friend along… like when I realized my shoes somehow managed to migrate 30 yards away through a patch of sticky brush, or when I couldn’t zip my dress by myself, or I wanted a second opinion on a mid-shoot lipstick change. It never hurts to have an extra friend or two come to your shoot!
Horse Preparation Is Essential. My mare Aria is less spooky than most, but I know that a photo shoot is a whole other thing for a horse. Since I’m an equine photographer myself I would have been sooooo embarrassed if my horse ended up being a problem child! So I took her to the locations I had in mind 3-4 times the week before the shoot to make sure she was totally comfortable there. She also got a solid trainer ride the morning of the shoot.
You Won’t Regret Professional Hair and Makeup. I have the skills of a toddler when it comes to hair and makeup, so a professional blowout and styling plus on-location makeup was a must for me. The simple truth is that if you love how you look on shoot day, you’ll love your pictures. While it may feel a little awkward getting your makeup done in the barn aisle, the results are worth it.
If You Want Something Special You Have to Plan for It. I had a very specific dream in mind: my horse looking like she had no bridle or halter on while I rode her in a ballgown-style dress. This took some planning including making sure the photographer was comfortable with it and that I had a handler to hold the horse off to the side with a “naked halter.” I also had to desensitize Aria to the feeling of a dress across her back and rump – some horses can be terrified of this. Aria took it like a champ especially after trainer Jess rode her around with a tarp on. Even with all the preparation, when it came down to it I was sightly nervous to hop on with no reins, bareback, in a dress. It turned out perfect but I would never recommend doing this without preparing! Same thing if you want to gallop bareback or use a different bridle than usual: there’s no such thing as over-preparation for something special like that! If in doubt, ask your trainer for his/her help or recommendations.
At Least One of Your Plans Will Get Ruined, But That’s Okay. I did my photos at Galway Downs in Temecula, CA and there is a beautiful shaded pond that I wanted to take pictures next to. But when it came time to shoot, there was a wedding happening there! So we had to cross that spot off the list completely. And then I had planned to take pics in front of the start gate on the racetrack, but at shoot time the gate had been moved from the spot I intended! SOMETHING is going to happen to change the plan, but as long as you roll with it and keep a positive attitude, the pictures will turn out great anyway!
No Such Thing As Too Dressed Up. We equestrians spend most of our time in breeches and boots and ponytails. Those things make sense for a normal barn day. I also like shooting casual outfits and “equestrian glam” outfits (i.e. breeches, boots, a fun top, and beautiful hair and makeup). But if you’re up for it, a gown and high heels can make for truly stunning and unique horse & rider photographs!
I am SO glad I put myself in my clients’ shoes and did this shoot. My final gallery 100% made me bawl like a baby when I received it… it’s just emotional seeing me and my best equine friend looking so happy and beautiful together. The memories are truly priceless.