Although I take commissions for Horse Portraits throughout the year, the autumn is always a special time of year for me personally. I try to utilise the autumn season to try out new ideas and locations and this year my focus was at Skipwith Common.
Although Skipwith Common provides a great location for equine portraits, the two locations that I found that were most suitable are at opposite ends of the common, so lugging lighting kit from one location to another eats into time and requires effort.
Unfortunately, when we arrived for the first shoot on October the 5th, many of the leaves on the trees were still green, so we had to make the best of what little autumn colour we could find. Fortunately, as the sun was dipping in and out of the light grey clouds and there was little autumn colour around, I decided to try some hard lighting ideas, the only problem was de-rigging the kit and carrying it to another location.
Making the best of a location we could manage to carry the kit too, we set up a C Stand with two Godox AD200’s that were gridded in a reflector and then used an Einstein (Paul C Buff) with a long throw reflector.
Anyway, here are a few examples of what we achieved, pleased with the results, especially as the intended shoot was to make use of the autumn leaves that turned out to be a little lacking in colour. We have another shoot at Skipwith, so I hope the leaves will have turned, but will also do so a few more hard light shots too.
Fran & I have been photographing horses for about seven years now, but over the past two years we have been taking equine lifestyle portraits and combing flash into the process. As animals can be challenging to photograph, let alone trying to position them and use flash, I thought I would write a little Synopsis of what I have discovered and learnt.
Every time we undertake an equine shoot I experience challenges and have to work out how to overcome them, not every session works as I intended, so I often learn from my not so good equine shoots.
Outdoor Location Scouting & Preparation
For me personally perhaps the most valuable lessons I have learned are a result of the frustrations I have encountered in relation to equine portraits, the importance of the location in my opinion is paramount to the success of the images produced. The choice of and how to best make use of it will often make or break the shoot.
When scouting for locations, I have learned to think like a horse and its owner rather than just a photographer. Finding a location with practical space and access may for the horse and owner at first seem obvious, but it’s surprising how much preparation it takes, you can’t just position a horse somewhere like you can a person.
The next discovery I made was creating separation of the horse from the background, it’s more than just lens choice though, a 70mm–200mm f/2.8 will provide good versatility and you can create some great images with this lens. However, using an 85mm or 135mm prime will open up more creative opportunities if you think about photography position, this comes with experience and reflection.
Photographer’s Position: For me personally I have found that a low-angle shots are the most flattering point of view for the images I want to create, I often get down on my knees, rather than shooting from a standing position. Long focal lengths and wide apertures work for me between f/2 to f/4 and are my sweet spot.
Depth of field can be challenging at f/2 but the results can be amazing. I now mainly use a 85mm and a 135 for my equine portraits, but also use the 70mm to 200mm. Lighting: Flash & Modifiers I have used various brands of strobes (flash) but my current system is Godox. As some better locations for equine portraits often involve a bit of a trek, keeping my lighting kit light and simple is key. I have been using Godox AD 360’s and Godox Ad200’s together with an Xpro-S trigger. Modifier wise depending on location and conditions, Westcott Soft Silver Brolly, medium Octabox, Strip box, MagMod sphere & grids. To keep everything stable and safe, I have opted for C-Stands.
I intend to create another blog with images and video in relation to lighting for equine portraits and in particular Godox products.