How to Take Better Photos on your Horse Riding Holiday

It’s only after snapping BILLIONS of images one-handed astride a horse that I’ve been able to master horse riding holiday photography. It’s undeniably hard to take focused, well-framed images when you’re riding a horse. But it’s not impossible!

First, it comes down to your choice of camera. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover of smartphone cameras when my feet are firmly placed on the ground, but personally I don’t love using a phone camera one-handed in the saddle. However, it does have the convenience of slipping into your back pocket for easy access, so if you want to stick with your smartphone, kudos to you. Point-and-shoot cameras are the most popular choice, as they offer a higher quality image than the average phone and have more options for shooting in different conditions, such as at night or at high speed. GoPros are fantastic for capturing footage hands-free, and their in-built stabilisers sure help keep the jitters out of your footage. Or maybe you’re a fully-fledged photographer and plan on bringing your SLR camera (maybe even multiple lenses!) along for the ride. If you can keep your camera, yourself and your fellow guests safe while using bulky photography gear, well, the results can be absolutely worthwhile.
Whichever type of camera you choose to use, the following information will help you capture exceptional photos, whether you’re new to the photography game or an old hat.

TIPS & TRICKS

  • This may sound obvious, but make sure you stop your horse before framing the shot. This will increase your chances ten-fold of getting a shot that is in-focus. If you have a horse that doesn’t want to be held back from the rest of the group, position yourself up the front so you have time to stop and frame the shot, rather than expecting your horse to stand still when the rest of the group are walking off.
  • When framing your shot, think in thirds. This is the golden rule of any well-framed image whether you’re shooting landscape or portrait. The image above wouldn’t have had the same drama if the elephant was framed in the centre of the shot, wouldn’t you agree? Here’s an example from Baroque Horse Magazine:
  • Another pointer on framing: make sure you have a subject or point of interest in the foreground of your shot to capture the eye of the viewer. A landscape that looks huge and magnificent to the eye has a frustrating way of looking flat and uninteresting to a camera lens, but having a clear subject goes a long way to rectifying the issue.
  • If you’re riding a horse that jerks on the reins when stationery or is impatient to keep moving, let the horse graze to give you the time to frame the shot. Make sure you keep hold of the reins, though.
  • Even though we live in the digital age and have the freedom to take a trillion photos, it’s worth taking the time to frame shots rather than shooting willy-nilly. Better to take more than less, true, but do you really want to have to sift through hundreds of dud photos in order to find the golden egg: a well-framed, in-focus, well-exposed image? Take an extra moment to analyse what you’re photographing and consider the best way to capture what it is that’s speaking to you.
  • Also, if your camera has a viewfinder, try and use this rather than the live view screen. It will also help with framing and focus, and more importantly, develop your ‘eye’ as a photographer.
  • Don’t hesitate to ask your guide to take some photos throughout your riding holiday. Trust me, they won’t mind a single bit. Also ask your guide, who is the most knowledgeable about the region, where the best photos or angles can be found. If we’re lucky enough for you to join us on a guided trip, we will photograph and video every waking moment of your riding adventure.
  • If you’re travelling by yourself, speak to another globetrotter and agree to take photos of each other and swap contact details so you can share your images when you get home.
  • If you’re planning to GoPro, you’ll find this blog post handy in explaining the angles and mounts that will help you to capture the best footage.
  • It’s a bit of a predictable shot now, but to add perspective, it’s always great to shoot between your horse’s pricked ears. Okay, don’t frame every shot like this, but if you’re wanting to show proximity or distance, this is a great way of achieving it.
  • Don’t forget to think about your background! There’s the basics – keeping the horizon at 180 degrees, not cutting off someone’s head or a horse’s hooves – but you’ll improve your photography if you look a little harder. If you’re photographing someone or something in front of a particularly stunning backdrop, make sure the subject is not obscuring the scene itself. Also check for unsightly elements like power lines and rubbish and try to frame your shot so that they’re not visible. Another great rule is to avoid putting a rider or horse’s head on the horizon line. This can sometimes mean you need to crouch or stand on your tippy-toes, but it stops the horizon from looking like it’s slicing through their face.
  • Look for different angles and perspectives. I’m always riding on the wing or searching for higher ground so that I can shoot looking down on the group. I get tired of shooting a group from behind. Sometimes I’ll canter up ahead and get pictures the group riding towards me. Just make sure to check with your guide before moving away or changing your position in the group, if circumstances dictate that you should (see our article on horse riding holiday etiquette).
  • If you’d like to learn about manual photography (think shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc), here’s a great video tutorial to introduce you to the basics. Even if you don’t plan to shoot on Manual, learning how cameras work cannot fail to make you a better photographer.

I’ll be adding to this list as I think of other tips and tricks.  Also, feel free to leave a comment below on what you’ve found works best for you.