Photographing Horses At A Horse Show


The show season is almost here, so let’s review what we need to do to capture some good photographs of our animals at a show. I’m using horses to illustrate the text, but all the concepts apply no matter what animal you are photographing.

The good thing about a show is that we know it’s a good time to make images because our animals will be well groomed. That means all we have to worry about is the lighting and the background.

Another plus is that our animals are always buzzed at a show and so interested in what is going on that catching great expressions and alert ears is a cinch.

That’s the good part. The bad part is lighting you can’t begin to control and backgrounds with carnivals, carousels and crates.

But hey, we’re good! We can do this! Plus we just ran out and bought an SLR (single lens reflex) camera with a built-in flash (plus an external flash if we’re really serious), because we know a point-and-shoot camera, a cell phone, or an iPad won’t make the cut.

Point-and-shoots, phone cameras and iPads will only work in limited situations because they don’t have a long enough lens to isolate your animal subject (or any other subject) from the overwhelming clutter at a show plus they don’t have enough flash power. The image above is a good example. It’s a nice record shot of the day, but nothing more. However,  if you are using an SLR, you are ready to tackle a show and get some really great close-up images.

If it’s an outside event, the light is always a big issue. If you’ve been reading the blogs or my book you already know it’s important to plan your photo shoots outside when the light is soft or overcast so you don’t have to deal with harsh shadows. But during an outside show, you obviously can’t put your knowledge of when to photograph into practice because, drat it, the class you want to photograph is set for high noon.

So we start by scouting out the entire ring. Move around. Take some test shots and view the results on your LCD screen. You are looking for the best location with the best light available. It may not be ideal, but just go for it. Find a good spot and then wait for the action to come to you. Set your camera controls on burst mode (continuous shooting mode) so that the camera will take a series of shots when you hold down the shutter button, increasing your chances of getting a few images that are super sharp.

Since you have done your homework, now all you need to do is concentrate on capturing the action at it’s peak.


Put your focusing square on the flowers of the jump, push your shutter button half way down and wait.


Since you have pre-focused on the jump, everything will be sharp when you release the shutter.

Same technique here. Pre-focus on the rail of the jump and wait for the action to move into your field of view.

Good shooting!


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