Friday, December 18, 2009

Photography and horses

Photography and horses. I guess you could call them an obsession of mine. There is rarely a day I don't touch my camera. If I go a day without my horses there is REALLY something wrong, considering they need to eat (and poop which is what I am constantly moving around).
I have learned how to use my camera from my love of horses. From my photography of horses I have paid for my camera.
I want to share with some of you things I have learned about getting good horse photographs and using different settings on my camera.

If your camera is capable of it, shoot in RAW- I guess this can be quite debatable but basically RAW is a digital negative of an image. You can't actually view it on anything other than the camera unless you have a program to specifically edit these images. For instance I use Adobe's light room. You can adjust the sharpness, tone, contrast, filter, white balance, exposure etc.
Sure some of you are going "but I can do that in photoshop with a JPG" True but you are very very limited in how much before the picture really looks obviously photoshopped. Of course the downside to this is that RAW images take up more space. Because of this I have many GB of memory cards. I have saved many a bad image that was too dark or oversaturated by shooting in RAW.

Read your camera's manual-
I can't say this enough, the camera people for the most part know what the heck they are talking about. At first when I got my good DSLR I was running around in auto snapping pictures. Sure some turned out alright but they lacked a lot of good lighting since I hate using flash. Once I read the manual I learned how to adjust the settings and now I rarely ever use auto for anything other than joking around with friends.

Focus- Especially for horses because they are prey animals they are always on the move. Most cameras, even point and shoot have several different points of focus. Mainly you can have one shot , AI focus and AI servo. The difference between them is easy. One shot is a single fixed point of focus usually left, right or center. If your horse happens to be made of stone that is great. AI focus is a focal point that continues to move with the subject if it's slowly. I use this the most. Say a horse is walking in a field it will follow it making little adjustments accordingly. AI servo is a faster version of AI focus say for a horse galloping in a field.

ISO- Since a lot of you here have point and shoot and are taking pictures to blog I will explain ISO. Most cameras, even point and shoots have an adjustable ISO setting. ISO basically is how much light is allowed into the camrea in order to take a picture. The lower the ISO speed the less "noise" (grainy, pixelated etc) there will be in the final picture. For fast moving photographs indoor with bad light 800-1200-1600 are good examples. Experiment. A well lit photograph in which the subject is slowly moving use a lower ISO like 100. Remember with lower ISO (100 for example) there is a longer exposure time so you will want to use a tripod or your image will be blurry. Of course everyone is different and uses different ISO for different reasons.

Surroundings and backgrounds-
I can't count the times I took a photo of a horse next to a building (think Indigo, white horse next to red barn) and the horse turned out a funky colour. Sure the horse may have been in the right pose or the right place but in the case of making highlights show up on a horses coat the surroundings can make or break a picture, even if they are not in the frame.
Like this picture it was early morning and the sun was behind me, which would have created some pretty dramatic shadows on Naigens face. I stood her next to a big white arena door to the left in the picture.
They can help or hinder your subject.
I did not take this picture of Naigen and I but I can tell you the sun was not to the right of the picture, a big white barn was. It was about 4 pm in the summer last year. Everything is overexposed compared to other pictures taken 10 feet away from there that day that turned out nicely because it was not bouncing off of that freshly painted barn.
Now on an overcast day that white barn might be your best friend by placing a dark horse next to it to get highlights instead of shadows.

Backgrounds. Be aware of what is in the background. Distracting backgrounds and ruin an otherwise good image like this one of Sonata that I have since photoshopped the trailer, shed and car in the background out before selling the image. Eyes and ears- For humans this is an easy one. Our ears do not move. Most mammals however do. Always focus on the eyes but when photographing a horse be aware of which directions the ears are swiveling. You want your sharpest focus on a horse (unless you are focusing on lets say, hooves) to be his eyes. Having said that you want his ears pointing in the direction he is looking, which should be forward most of the time. An example is this picture taken a few years ago on my old razr cell phone of Indigo. Shes got one ear on me and the other pointing towards two cats duking it out behind her in the photo.

Look with both your eyes- I have to admit I see about 90% of people that are taking a picture do the one eye open, one eye shut deal. If you went your whole life with one eye open imagine all the stuff you would miss. It's like driving the car with a bunch of blind spots on one side and not the other. You are going to miss a lot of cars coming your way. It may seem confusing at first but every single one of the photo's I really like that I took I had both eyes open. It allows you to see the full picture, not just what your lens shows you.

There ya go. A little that everyone with a camera here can put to practice, not necessarily all on horses either.

6 comments:

Pony Girl said...

Good tips Sydney. Where do you sell your pictures? I can't remember what kind of camera you use. I have a problem with getting my aperature low enough to do good work in poor lighting. I want a new lens! :)
OH, also, that last pic of Indigo, where is she standing? It's a very interesting looking barn, it looks like she is on a narrow slab of concrete. Is it a wash rack?

Sydney said...

I sell my pictures as stock to various different horse magazines and a few graphic design places locally for horse stock.
I have a Nikon D60. Having more than one lens is definately handy. I need one with a quicker F-stop.

The barn, ahh where to start. It's over 100 years old we had cows. The narrow slab is the isle and the indents on either side are the gutter, which used to have a system for moving cow sh*t. The stalls for the cows are still kind of up but mostly everything is moved when the cows were sold. I miss milking all the cows. Can you imagine grooming and tacking up horses with a couple dozen cow behinds pointed at you? Hahah.

Sydney said...

You can see the gutter and stalls better in this picture http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_LIAAygEodww/Sqq_yxbRTOI/AAAAAAAAAkY/IsO-5rsjS_Q/s1600-h/102_0072.JPG

The Wife said...

Great tips Sydney!

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Great tips! I need to get a photoshop program. I always have distracting backgrounds, houses, cars, trucks, horse trailers, etc., etc. I also have lots of overexposure because of the altitude and sunshine. And then there's my lack of ability. lol.

photographerpainterprintmaker said...

Excellent article Sydney.

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