Photographing Your Horse For Sale

1. Here are a few pointers on how to photograph your horse for sale, to its best advantage. Remember you are selling the horse, not the background, or the old cars you have kicking around, or an ex husband, or the rest of your herd. Especially you don't want to be photographing last year's pile of meadow muffins! 
2. Get the horse groomed as if you were taking it to a halter class,.. wash it, clip it, braid it, and polish it to blue ribbon standards. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so don't stint on the elbow grease. Trim and polish the feet as well.
3. Put a show halter on it, fitted well to the horse's head, and NOT sliding down the neck toward the mane. Again, borrow one if necessary, but make sure that the halter showcases your horse's head nicely. No loose, sloppy work horse halters, tied together with baler twine.. nobody wants to buy a horse that is not loved by its current owner.
4. Be sure to take the photo early enough in the day so that the sun is overhead, not causing weird slanting shadows like a rising or setting sun will do.
5. Find a pretty place with lawn underfoot, and lots of blue sky behind the horse. A field with no distracting fence lines or grain silos, or farm tractors behind the main focus of the photo - the horse. A slight hill will assist in getting a good park out of your horse. Go to the neighbor's place if you must, but get a nice background!!!
6. Park the horse so that there is sky behind him, and the sun is directly behind you. Make sure that you are not so close that your shadow falls on the horse. Stand at right angles to the horse, so that both the front end and hind end are equal distance from the camera and the horse is balanced. Start at the girth line and move backwards until your shadow doesn't touch the horse, and you can see both ears and feet in the photo.
7. Make sure the handler is not in the photo, period.. ! not crouching behind the horse, not covering the horse's head with hands or shadows. The handler is not for sale, and should NOT be in the photo.
8. Make sure that wind is not blowing in the horse's face, or its ears will be turned backwards, giving a sour demeanor. Having other horses near by will sometimes help to get the subject's ears forward.
9. Wait for your shot.. get the horse parked out, and ready, and then wait until it relaxes and turns its ears and even its face toward you. Then get your shot. take several..
10. The first of the sales shots should be a conformation shot, showing the feet and how they are shod; the body to good advantage - never OVER-park the horse... squared is better than stretched out like a rocking horse... the front legs must NEVER extend out front past the point of the shoulder, and should be straight down from the body... only the back legs should be stretched out beyond the body, and not very much.. just enough to show off a nice top line. Parking out your horse is an easy way of showing the prospective buyer that this horse has been handled and ground worked.
11. This is the first and most important photo of your horse for sale. Without this conformation shot, the rest are academic, because your online viewer has nothing to judge without this crucial shot. You MUST include the feet - with our breed, if the feet are NOT showing, the viewer will assume the worst!... so show off a nice, trimmed, polished foot.. don't bury it in the grass.
12. Photo #2 should be a shot of the horse gaiting.. this should demonstrate the best running walk that your horse is capable of, whether under saddle, or loose in the pasture. Forget the flat walk and the canter.. this is a WALKING horse! Let's see it doing a Running Walk!
13. Taking a photo of a horse under a rider is a wasted shot, if the horse is just standing there.. a mounted photo should always be an ACTION shot!.
14. Photo #3, if you want to include one, should be a nice profile headshot, exhibiting the line of the horse's nose, not a full on, 'nostril' shot, illustrating the sinuses instead of the eyes, ears, and shape of the head.. if you are taking a head shot to illustrate a particular eye color, take the photo of the EYE... JUST the eye... it makes an interesting variation from the same old, same old shots.
15. The most important thing about photographing horses is the same as photographing children - - if everybody is NOT having FUN, the shot will not turn out.. no shouting at the handler, waving sticks and clappers and paper bags at the horse, or murdering the family dog.. he's just trying to help. : )
16. Don't forget to take videos if your camera is capable... a short video or two, demonstrating all three gaits, will do MORE to sell your horse than any still photo, so take them if you can! Use a standard video format like .mpg, or .mpeg so that everybody can see them, and don't forget to upload them to YouTube. Lots of folks go watch them from all over the world, so add your sales blurb to the upload.. include contact information with your videos.
17. When all is said and done, remember - NOTHING says 'I've got a great horse!' like a professionally taken photograph, so if your horse is special, please consider spending the money to prove it. Two of the best in the TWH business are: PJ Wamble and Jack Greene.

--jh                                 

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Last Updated: March 28, 2017

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