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Black background equestrian portraits explained

what's involved in setting up a studio on your yard.

My "black background" horse portraits have been gaining popularity. It's no surprise - they really showcase the horse's features, allow for dramatic lighting and cut out all distractions.

Black background images make for great prints and wall art to be proudly displayed in your home or given as gifts.

Some horse owners I've spoken to didn't think their yard would be suitable for a photo shoot, and didn't know what's involved in creating those beautiful portraits. This is why I've decided to explain my process, as it is possible to get this effect on almost any yard!

There are various ways in which the black background images can be created.

The way I do it means that you don't have to worry about the weather or lighting conditions. All I need is some dry, indoor space - inside an indoor arena, a barn, lean-to, larger shed... And we're good to go!

Why do we need to be indoors?

Dry ground means that my equipment (and your horse) will stay dry and clean which is important. We also need to be sheltered from the wind as strong gusts can make my equipment move or even fall, potentially causing a scary situation for the horse and everyone involved. With that in mind, indoor spaces are perfect, though they certainly don't need to be "posh"! Functionality is all I'm looking for. My backdrop is about 20ft (6m) wide so it would be great to have enough room for it, but I will make it work in smaller spaces as well. I will be using a strobe light (flash) on a stand which is easy to move, and of course I will need a bit of room to move around as well.

On the day

First I'll arrive at the yard and we will decide where to set up. It takes me about 20 minutes to get everything ready, so you can use this time to prepare, give your horse a brush or have a cup of tea.

The backdrop and light is set up in an indoor school

Once I'm ready, I'll ask you to bring the horse in. It might take a few minutes for them to get used to the new objects, so you can let them have a look around and relax.

Most horses relax very quickly and are really not bothered. In fact, quite often I end up having to "wake them up" with silly noises!

The horse is brought in and after a short walk around I introduce the strobe light

I will guide you through posing your horse to get the best photos. Patience is key as they won't understand what we're trying to do. We'll take short breaks for walking them around, so have a rug on hand in case they get cold. Treats are great for rewarding good behaviour and making it a nice experience for everyone.

I will take a few test shots to adjust my lighting and make sure the horse is used to the equipment and flash

Once we're done, we can move on to the next stage of the photo shoot, or finish there depending on what we have planned for the day. I will need a few more minutes to put everything away and that's it! Simple.

What you need to do to prepare

Make sure your horse is clean. Shiny coat will pick up the light and look beautiful. Dust spots and dirt will be more visible in photos, so a bath the day before, or at least a mane wash might be necessary.

Pick attractive head gear. Whether your horse will be wearing a headcollar or a bridle (or both) make sure they are clean, well fitted and overall look good on your horse's head.

Don't have a nice headcollar? Let me know in advance, and I will bring a smart halter for use during the session (I have limited selection of sizes, but I can make new ones if needed).

Nice, simple halter doesn't distract from the horses face, but allows for degree of control

Exercise. Young and energetic horses might benefit from a ride or lunge in the morning before your photo shoot. It will help them focus and settle in front of the camera. You know your horse well, so I trust you to decide on the best course of action.

Well behaved horses can be lunged to capture them in motion

Posing with your horse? Plan your outfits in advance (anything from smart jodhpurs and shirt to ball gowns or suits is a go!). Have someone on hand to hold the horse while you change or help with getting their attention.

Use treats to encourage your horse to move its head and neck

After the session I will edit the photos (this could take up to 2 weeks) and invite you to an online meeting where you will get to see your images and pick which ones you'd like to purchase. No hard sell there, just pick what you love!

Do you have any questions? Would you like to book a session for your horse?

Get in touch through my contact page, email me at, or give me a call on 07542052860.

I can't wait to create beautiful portraits of you and your horse!


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