Growing up in the Chilcotin in the heart of British Columbia ranching country, I have had a lifelong love of horses. So much in fact, that I attended Olds College in Alberta straight out of high school and took the Equine Production and Breeding Management program. It was my dream to breed fancy horses that would someday get ridden in the Olympics. This is still a dream of mine, but it has taken a backseat to my photography passion.
I have always been a horse photographer. That was all I took pictures of. People? No way. All of my best memories include horses – in fact I distinctly remember riding everywhere in my bathing suit when it was hot out…. Haha! Today, my horses are still my favourite subjects to photograph. In 2004, my sister graduated from high school and armed with my brand new Nikon D100 and all of it’s 6.1MP, I photographed her and her friends in their dresses and decided that perhaps there was something to this people photography after all! In May of 2005, I photographed my first wedding, and never looked back.
In 2007, I had the opportunity to photograph my college friend Andrea and her husband Jason with their horses the day after their wedding. This was the start of combining my great love for horses and beautiful dresses. One of the photos from this session, “Sweet Sunset,” won first place in the Couples Category of the 2007 DWF and Finao Photo of the Year Contest, an Internationally recognized contest.
From there, there was no looking back and I photographed as many horses and dresses as I could. In 2010, I really started to push the graduating girls with their fancy prom dresses and their horses.
My horse and dress sessions tend to last about 45 minutes each, and really focus on the connection between a girl and her horse. This is documented through a series of different poses. I usually position myself rather than positioning the horse (unless there is a certain background that I really want in the picture), and place myself at a three-quarter position to the horse, meaning they are sort of on a diagonal to me, not fully head on, and not fully sideways.
I usually start with the girl standing beside her horse’s head, with the reins (I always insist on bridles on horses, it just looks fancier than a plain old halter!) in one hand and the other hand on the horse’s neck. From here you can have your subject move around from side to side and take a variety of shots, close ups and pictures that also show your entire scene. I work the girl through a series of different poses such as cuddling up close with her horse’s head, hands on the back or withers, letting the horse graze on the grass with her standing nearby, and then usually have them walk around me in a circle and then directly towards and away from me.
I absolutely love to have girls sit in the long tall grass and cuddle their horse’s heads, providing it is safe to do so. This to me is the ultimate connection, as many horses will close their eyes and breathe deeply, and sigh in contentment, and to me there is not a more beautiful connection than that.
From here, I usually ask my subjects if they are wanting to ride their horse in their dress – most girls say yes! As long as it is safe to do so (usually with a second helper), we boost the girl onto her horse and then once the horse is used to the feel of the dress, we turn them loose. Again, I photograph a series of images, from different angles, close up and further back. Most of these shots are standing still, or walking around, but if your rider is comfortable enough and really trusts her horse, she can trot or even canter (lope) through a field with her horse. For these I tend to back up a bit and get the full effects of the scenery they are in… having a beautiful backdrop of mountains really helps here
Posing the Horse – One of the key tips for photographing a horse is to ensure that it’s ears are pricked, or pointed forward. If you are not a horse person, you may not realize this, but it is critical for a good horse picture! Rarely will a girl ever buy a picture of herself and her horse if the horse does not look alert and happy! This can be achieved in many ways, see Helping Hands below!
It is also important to make sure that the horse’s front legs are as square as possible and the back legs are slightly offset (if not square as well), but it is important to not have one back leg extended too far.
Helping Hands – Whether it’s someone to shake a grain bucket, do jumping jacks, throw sticks in the air, squeeze a squeaky toy, or parade another horse back and forth, an additional person or two, to help get the horse’s attention is critical! An extra helper is also recommended if you plan to photograph your rider on her horse. It’s not the easiest climbing up bareback with a big fluffy dress on!
Comfort, Safety and Fun – Never make your rider do something she is uncomfortable with. Some horses are just naturally “hotter” than others and will not tolerate being ridden with a dress on. So far I have only had one horse buck his rider off, and that was after she had galloped through a field of deep snow in her wedding dress, so at least she had a soft landing, but… if the horse is showing any sort of nervousness or appears upset in anyway, it is best to be safe rather than sorry and have your rider get off.
As always, try to keep your sessions simple and fun!
Bio: Robyn is a seasoned wedding photographer having documented weddings in five different countries worldwide. Raised on a ranch, Robyn has had a lifelong love of horses. Combining her love of horses and beautiful dresses, she created her Beauty and Beloved sessions to capture the emotional connection between girls and their beloved equine partners. Please be sure to visit her websites and become a fan on Facebook!
Long ago in a land far, far away I was an art major. Okay, so it was only Arkansas, but it was quite some time ago when I was investing in learning how to hone my skills as an artist. (Not once during my college years did I ever see myself ever pursuing photography, but hey here I am!!)
The thing is, a snap of our camera eventually becomes a work of art! We can use the basic rules of composition to aid in that creation.
Your job as a creator is to bring the viewer into an image and keep their attention there. The first step to bringing them in is to have a distinct focal point. There should be one spot in your image that instantly grabs the attention of the viewer; they can stray from it, but should always come back to it.
The rule of thirds is an excellent starting place for simple composition and directing the focal point. Divide an image into thirds both vertically and horizontally; the intersection of these lines are your sweet spots within an image. Artistic masters have been using this recipe for ages, because simply put… it works.
When using this rule, always be careful to give your subject room to look, walk, run – well, maybe even breathe - in order to help them feel comfortable.
Yes, I said make them feel comfortable!! Remember, our goal is to draw the viewer in and hold them; if they feel uneasy they will stray quickly.
Here is a simple example of cropping to the thirds in 4 different ways. You will have to pretend with me that this little filly is a stunning senior for the purpose of this example!
Crops 1 and 2 are using the rule of thirds in a hideous manner. Ugh, NO!! The filly looks like she is going to drop right off the page, and it makes me squirm. She needs space to run. Crop 3 is doing a better job, giving her space BUT the line of the little dirt road leads our eye right out of the bottom of the picture. Crop 4 is the best solution for this shot. Our girl has space to run, the dirt road leads our eye to her, and we get an overall feel of balance. Success!!
If your first goal is to draw the viewer in, then your second goal is to keep them there. Bring them in with a focal point, and use leading lines as a tool to keep them there.
Leading the eye around an image is so vitally important and quite possibly something you may have never thought about. I can tell you that any fine artist worth their salt has thought about it and makes it a huge part of their composition decisions, and you should to0.
This is something you must learn to pay attention to within your work, and a trick that you can use to lead your viewer. Sometimes the leading is more obvious, like the fence in the foreground and background of this shot.
And sometimes it can be as subtle as a look, which only infers a line but serves to lead.
Subtle, inferred or bold and intentional lines that lead the eye are a key to holding the interest of your viewer within the work you have created.
So to recap…bring your viewer in with a strategically placed focal point, and keep them there by leading their eye about, but always back to the main point of interest.
A good exercise to gain a more practiced eye is to study art or photographs that you admire. Take the time to really notice where your eye hits the image first, and how it is led about through intentional guiding of the artist.
Jennifer Watrous of JD Waterhouse Photography is a Fine Artist turned photographer. With a background in watercolor, pen and ink, and pencil drawing… photography seemed the natural next step for this busy mom of three to be able to click and create artwork in a fraction of the time! Her laid back style and joyful attitude make her a perfect fit for the genre of equine photography where patience, timing and the perfect pair of blue jeans are key. Most of her time is spent out “horsing around”, but she willingly dedicates time to her second love of Senior Portraiture. Find more of her work on her website and Facebook page.
Megan Evans Photography
I’ve just recently started doing Senior Sessions and I absolutely LOVE THEM. This girl was gorgeous and fun and natural. I’m always amazed at the ability of these girls to let all of their confidence and strength shine through in a session. I think the camera makes them feel empowered to take some risks and be a little daring. And the result is always amazing. This was my first time shooting with a 135mm lens and it blurred the background to soup. One thing I learned was that having someone with you to help hold the reflector in just the right place is key. One thing I do a little differently than most Senior Photographers is that I let the girls do their own hair/make-up. I think it’s important for them to look like themselves. I do consult on outfits, but other than that, it’s their shoot.
photo credits: Megan Evans Photography
This week we interrupt our regular programing to bring you Saturday Savings! I’m going to link to a few awesome deals for photographers, and then you’re going to share your finds from the week in the comments. Yay for savings!
First off, our very own Paper and Camera is having a mega-sale, with the entire shop available for only $65! Already have some of our amazing templates, actions, or overlays? No worries. Get just the newest items (all of them!) for only $35. But hurry – this sale ends as soon as Heather gets back from New York!
Then, in case you missed it, there’s this incredible senior marketing kit from The Shoppe that we featured earlier this week on the blog. They’re offering Girl Hearts Camera readers a 25% discount on this all-inclusive marketing kit this week and next – use the code GIRLHEARTS25 and get started with everything you need for a successful senior campaign!
So, what do you have? Did you stumble across a super sweet deal online this week? Share a link in the comments!
Introducing The New York Modern Marketing Collection by Shoppe ~ Design
Take New York by day or by night! This marketing set was designed for senior photographers but is easily adaptable to any type of photography business. There are a few different kits adding up to a very extensive set of everything you need to fully market your business both online and in print. The neutral and modern clean look has an editorial feel and showcases your images as the most important thing. It comes in a clean white version as well as a sleek black version!
The Branding Set
The full branding kit includes an extensive set of promotional designs for your business designed to be printed at your favorite lab. Having all of your marketing materials match in a cohesive presentation is very important for photographers in a business where we are selling something so visual. It is important to develop a brand that people will recognize in your market.
The Referral Card Set
Two different sized referral cards for your clients to use to spread the word of your magnificent work and to give them incentive to tell their friends! Includes a 4.5.x5 Postcard design and a business card size design as well.
The Price List Set
This set of matching price lists includes every format you might need to have your pricing in. Including 2 formats that can be printed at home and 2 that can be printed at your lab, this set has all the options! Fully editable text in the layered Photoshop files allow you to add your own pricing in easily. Includes sample text for 3 levels of packages, cards and prints pricing, album pricing with the album process, canvas and loose prints.
The Web Pack
A full set of marketing materials designed to keep your web presence strong and to match your print presence!
2 Facebook banners (one for sale, one normal)
2 Twitter backgrounds
social media buttons for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest
email template for a sale
The Prophoto Blog Design
If you are not using ProPhoto you are missing out! The easiest and best suited for photographers WordPress software is fantastic. The Shoppe has designed a template for a blog design matching our New York set. Could easily be used as a “blogsite” so that you don’t even need to have a separate website! Have all your galleries on the blog and keep your site always up to date! Blog Design is sold separately on Prophoto Blog’s Website HERE.
The Shoppe is offering Girl Hearts Camera readers a special discount! GET 25% OFF ALL PRODUCTS FOR THE NEXT 2 WEEKS. This includes the entire New York line up of marketing products! GET THE ENTIRE NEW YORK SET here and use your 25% off to save! (except the blog design which is sold on Prophoto’s website)
USE CODE: GIRLHEARTS25
Shoppe ~ Design for Photographers is an online store featuring an extensive library of layered Photoshop design templates and actions made specifically for photographers. The Shoppe has designs for wedding, senior, family, baby and boudoir photographers as well as unique film like actions.
Customers may choose between our monthly subscription option for $40 per month and get $400 per month in Shoppe Dollars to spend in our store, or you can just buy what you want. Just need one card? Just buy that card; it’s that simple. New designs are added every week to help members get the most out of their subscription and always keep you coming back!
From full marketing sets to branding and logos, as well as signature action sets and texture packs, seasonal cards and album designs, The Shoppe intends to have everything you need for your company’s marketing and other design and editing needs. Layered and editable Photoshop files allow you to have as much or as little control over the designs as you like! Our easy video tutorials are also helpful along the way if you are not an expert in Photoshop. We love to take suggestions from our subscribers for new products they would like to see! With unique, high quality designs and actions and incredible customer service, we will be your one stop Shoppe for the design needs of your growing business.
Does your company have something to offer our photographer readers? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more about sponsored posts and other advertising opportunities.