how to take horse pictures
beginners guide on how to photograph horses

Horse at sunsetPhoto by Patricia Alexandre on Pixabay

You want to learn how to take horse pictures. The good news is that you can get some great shots of horses without too much trouble by following a few simple tips. This beginners guide was written by a guy with no experience photographing horses.

Photo of a horse getting upTaken with 400mm f/5.6 prime lens

I was able to photograph this horse just after he enjoyed a roll on his back and was starting to stand up. As with most kinds of wildlife photography, a little bit of patience goes a long way.

These images are from a recent shoot for a client of mine who divides her time between painting as an accomplished artist and caring for a herd of horses, donkeys and ponies.

1. choose your horse location carefully

Horse photo backgroundGet the background behind
your horse just right.

Location, location, location. Look for the best angle that will have a good pleasing uncluttered background. Keep moving around until you get the best shot.

It's easy to see a great looking horse, take its photo and realize you've included a distracting background. It's a common photo mistake that every photographer has made, even professionals.

2. have patience for the right photo opportunity

Cuddling horsesCuddling Horses

Look for a special moment when you can capture something unique. The more time you spend around the horses means the higher potential you get of getting a great photo.

You can shoot away and get many boring shots of a horse standing still, doing nothing and no story told.

My horse farm owner told me how affectionate these two horses are, so I waited until they were cuddled close together to get this picture.

3. be respectful on how to take horse pictures

Never trespass on private property without permission first or put yourself in a dangerous situation. Whenever you are doing location photography it's the polite thing to ask first. Sometimes it's not possible if no one is around, but asking first, with a smile is always the best thing to do.

Horses nose to noseNose To Nose Horses

I've had the pleasure of taking pictures of these animals several times and it is always an enjoyable experience.

Although I am not afraid, I know to proceed with caution, without sudden movement and not to come up from behind a horse and startle him.

You can also get some great inspiration on how to take good horse pictures by getting a good book on horse photography.  If you are big fan of horses and photography, I think you will enjoy visiting another site as well.  It's called Best Horse Photos.

4. have the right photography equipment

The Best Camera for photographing horses

DLSRs and the new mirrorless cameras give you less of a delay when you press the shutter button. Point and shoot cameras and cell phone cameras have what's called shutter delay

Using a slow responding camera means you have more chance of missing to capture your horse photo at just perfect moment. Cameras that have a viewfinder that you can look through, rather than an LCD to compose your photo, are easier to use when you're outside and it's bright


Lenses for horse photography

24-105 lensUse a general purpose zoom lens for starting your horse photography

There is no such thing as the perfect horse photography lens. If you can get close enough while maintaining safety for you and the animal, a normal zoom lens will suffice. In those cases where the horses are more distant a high quality longer lens is in order.

When I am walking among the animals, I shoot with a 24-105mm zoom lens on my full frame DSLR. This gives me close focusing ability as well as being able to go wide angle and include more scenery in my composition.

When I am doing more distant photography, I attach a 70-200mm lens to bring my subject in closer and eliminate too much scenery as background behind the horses. When the horses are far off in the distance you'll get better results with your horse pictures with a lens that can zoom to at least 400mm. 

5. Avoid the Big Mistake When Taking Photos of Horses

Two mistakes were made when this horse photo was taken

I included this horse photo to show you 2 common photography mistakes, composing with a bad background and shooting where the lighting is bad. Look at this horse photo.

Notice how the outline of the horse and rider lines up with the trees. Because of the back lighting, it's hard to see the main subject of the photograph.

Reading a few other tips on taking digital photography on this site or another will also help you learn how to take horse pictures. Remember to have a blast as you experiment and learn new photography techniques. For more on avoiding common photo mistakes, you may want to read: Avoid Common Photo Mistakes.

p.s. I came across this photo taken by seriousfun on morguefile and wanted to share it with you. Having a long telephoto lens like a 300mm zoom makes long distance photography possible and makes it easier to take better horse pictures like this.

Serious action going on in this picture of racing horses

What's the best lens to use to get great horse photographs?  It really depends on the situation.  I recently got a new 400mm telephoto lens that is great when you can't get very close to your subject.

Learning how to take horse pictures is a completely different animal (sorry i couldn't resist) than other types of photography.  Yes, it still involves an understanding of lighting, composition, and background control.

Horses have a unique quality that can be captured when you know a little bit about their behavior and personality.

Watch less TV. Start Taking Better Pictures.

Article published by Bruce Lovelace


Bruce is the publisher of this website. He is the author of the book "Improve Your Photography Instantly."  Read more on Bruce on his Bio Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since 1994. Read more about this website.

View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram.   Visit the Facebook Page. Watch him on YouTube.  Bruce runs photo workshops for kids and adults, and provides one-on-one photography coaching.

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