Never underestimate photographing a horse / by Alex Walker Walker

A few weeks ago on a private commision I was asked to photograph two stunning multi prize winning Dressage horses.  It was a brilliant opportunity to work with these beautiful animals but was a lot more challenging than i'd first anticipated it to be.  

We decided that we were going to photograph the animals over the course of an afternoon, using 3 different locations on their land to provide scenic backdrops and in order to avoid stressing the animals out, we spaced these session each an hour apart.   We wanted to take some location lighting, however after talking to the handler before the shoot and learning that the horese could be easily freaked out with large objects (i.e large soft boxes) we opted for Canon 600Ex Speedlights as opposed to taking the full Profoto pack.   

After doing this shoot, I now have ultimate respect for the immaculate horse photos that are floating around on Pintrest.  The amount of detail and precision it takes to make a horse look stunning (to a horse owner) is not to be underestimated!  From the way the hair is brushed, nostrils and eyes being clean,  but to the most important aspects I learned, the posture and position of the head and neck and direction of the ears.  We took hundreds of frames, waiting for the myriad features to be correct, however when they were the results were fantastic.   

Overall, the client was extremely happy with the results. Below is one of locations picked. Instead of using a stand,  My assistant Steve was holding two 600EX's firing them through a shoot through diffuser on a reflector just to add a little fill to the lower face and the chest, but not to spill too much onto the ground.  Due to the great expense of the animals the handler had to keep hold throughout, so we removed the lead rope in Post.