Tag Archives: Gabriele Boiselle

52 Fridays – #18 Shoot Horses Better, With Better Camera Skills

(It appears Friday the 13th got the best of me…sorry for the delay in this installment of 52 Fridays, hope you enjoy it!)

52 Fridays is a year-long series for equestrian professionals and equine business owners and managers, with marketing and public relations information, ideas, tips, & resources shared here each Friday. New EMAIL blog subscribers receive a ’52 Fridays’ PDF when they sign up; existing subscribers and new RSS FEED & WORDPRESS subscribers can send a request for their own PDF here.

Although I’ve been photographing horses for a while, and have regular contact with pro equine photographers, I still cringe just a bit when the topic of ‘shooting’ horses comes up, even though the only thing aimed at them is a camera lens! Still, it’s a good idea to understand how to get nice-looking, non-distorted images of horses, especially if you’re using those images in your horsebiz marketing.

Photographing small details can provide beautiful images and 'mood' for your marketing.

I’m not a pro photographer, but I’ve been taking candids for decades (remember Kodak Instamatics?), and I’ve always worked to improve my own skills. Here are some things I’ve learned that might come in handy and save you a bit of cash in terms of DIY equine photography.

  • Know how your camera works, and when you can push its limits: Because horses and their backgrounds are often monochromatic and have little contrast between the color values, cameras can have a hard time ‘reading’ what’s in front of them, so it’s important to know what your camera can do and how to operate it effectively. And that takes practice, practice, practice…personally, I still struggle with the relationship between all the camera functions, but I work on understanding it because using manual settings has given me better results and some amazing images. Yes, the ‘auto’ function can still give you useable shots, especially if you’re doing conformation shots on a sunny day, but taking the time to practice can up your ‘wow’ factor and bring more attention to your horsebiz through better images.
  • Work with an assistant, or two or three: Having at least one person to help you is invaluable, whether they’re ‘herding’ a horse towards you in a big pasture, or working to get the horse’s attention and their ears forward when posed. If you can have several assistants, even better. Review what you want to accomplish ahead of time, so everyone knows their role.
  • When you've prepared, you can catch the right moments.

    Be willing and able to move around: The best images come when your camera is positioned approximately at the middle of the horse’s barrel. Shooting from higher or lower can result in weirdly distorted images, such as the classic ‘huge nose, tiny body’ looks. Be willing and able to move around, even if you have to kneel on the ground. Kneepads can come in handy here, and always use common sense and safe practices, since horses can be unexpected and dangerous.

  • Know expected norms for your breed and discipline: Each horse breed and sport discipline showcases different gaits, movements, and features, so do some study ahead of time to know what they are and how to position or time your shots for those moments. For example, Arabians in hand are expected to arch and extend their necks, showcasing dainty throatlatches and beautiful heads. Under saddle, the dressage world loves an amazing extended trot, while Saddlebreds are shown in an ‘up’ trot motion. Always be willing to try variations and new things, but be sure you get those basics down.
  • Horses give you a limited window to shoot, so be prepared: Make sure your horse is groomed and shined to a ‘T’ before you start. Have a beautiful halter, either a show halter or nicely polished and clean leather halter, and a pretty lead. If you’re turning a horse loose in a paddock for liberty shots, do a walk-over before bringing the horse out to be sure there aren’t any holes, rocks, or dangerous objects, and remember to take the halter off and brush down any halter marks before turning him loose. The most animated shots will generally be in the first 5 to 15 minutes of freedom and frolicking, so capture those first; you can always do in-hand or more contemplative shots later. And watch out for those horses that like to roll!
  • Some shots can still be salvaged in post-production: You’d be surprised how good some shots can look once you do a nice crop, and fix some basic things like color levels. Try out different software; there are free editing tools available online that can give you nice results.

There are still times when it pays to hire a professional photographer, but building a few photography tricks into your repetoire can give you better results and help you stretch your marketing budget.

Many thanks to all the teachers and pros who have helped me improve my own photography, including the wonderful Gabriele Boiselle, who teaches equine photo-seminars for amateurs in gorgeous settings around the world.

What’s your biggest challenge in getting a good horse photo? Share yours via the Leave a Comment link below. See you here next Friday for 52 Fridays #19!

Read other posts about Facebook by clicking on the Sort Posts By Topic dropdown menu to the right and selecting the Facebook category, or you can select 52 Fridays to read posts #1 through #17.


Filed under 52 Fridays, Equine Industry Marketing, Photography, Uncategorized

Monday Morning Quickie – To Fulfill Needs, You Gotta Identify Them

Horse industry customers buy goods and services because they have needs they want to fill, yes? What happens when you know your customers so well you can anticipate needs they aren’t even aware of yet?

This past week, Chicago was hit with a historic amount of snow, the 3rd heaviest in the city’s recorded history. I’ve had problems with finding some good, reliable boots for several years now, so when the blizzard was forecast, I thought ‘uh-oh’ and headed out Tuesday morning to get me some good ones.

I knew my needs were ‘easy to walk in’ (I trek 20+ miles weekly with my dog Bella, on city sidewalks AND cross-country at the lakefront) and ‘waterproof/warm’ and I typically buy black or dark brown boots. So why did I end up with a pair of ‘white with grey trim’ snow boots?








These Columbia Bugaboots (in winter white with metallic silver trim) not only fit the needs I’d already identified, they fulfilled a need I didn’t even think about until I saw the boots. During winter, what color is the ‘salt line’ you typically get on your dark-colored boots? That’s right, it’s white. So a pair of white boots won’t show that horrid white salt line. Brilliant! Columbia got the boot sale because they’d identified something I was always frustrated with, but never considered there was a solution for.

As for how that applies to the horse industry:

  • A few years ago when I was doing marketing & PR at a large Arabian horse farm in Tucson, we needed to promote the riding lesson program and boost participation. We combined the Arabian Horse Association’s Frequent Rider program, which rewards non-competitive riders of Arabian and Half-Arabian horses, with a direct mail letter to past students advising them of the goals & incentives we were incorporating into the lesson program, and inviting them back to join in the fun. Within two weeks, the lesson program was full! I think because we reached out and connected with past students, plus offered them a structure, with goals and rewards, it renewed their enthusiasm for riding lessons and brought them back.
  • Another example of fulfilling a horse industry need is the Edition Boiselle calendar line, by equestrian photographer Gabriele Boiselle. Her amazing, large-scale calendars are gorgeous wall art, and sell fabulously in Europe. However, we Americans like to have calendars to write on, to list our important dates and appointments; this is different than the European style, which only lists dates but doesn’t have room for notations. For 2011, Edition Boiselle offered American-format calendars for the first time, to give American fans not only the Boiselle images they love, but also a calendar they can use on a daily basis. Need fulfilled.

How does your horse business identify and fulfill customer needs? Is it time to sit down and think about not only what your customers say they need, but what they need that they don’t even know about yet?

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Filed under Equine Industry Marketing, Monday Morning Quickie, Uncategorized