It’s all in the Photo
Thursday 19 January 2012
Trying to sell a horse in the current market is a big challenge. One thing that can make or break a sale is a good quality photo. With a good photo your horse will be shown off to her best advantage. A bad photo can turn a lovely horse into something a buyer wouldn’t touch.
The first thing to consider is that you need to make sure your horse is fully prepared for her photo shoot. If the weather is warm enough you should give your horse a thorough bath. Grey horses or horses with white markings benefit from shampoos that whiten the hair. Once your horse is dry you need to groom her as though you were taking her to a show. Keep in mind the way horses from your discipline are turned out for the ring. If they are braided and you have skill in braiding, braid your horse. If they have pulled manes, pull the mane. You want your horse to look as though it is ready to go out and win. Even if your horse is a pleasure horse you want to make sure that there are no tangles in its mane or tail and that it looks its best.
To photograph your horse you will need an assistant who is either good with cameras or with horses. One person needs to handle the horse while the other takes photos.
A digital camera is ideal for photographing horses as you have virtually unlimited exposures available and you can easily change the settings to allow for rapid-fire photographs to get good action shots. You should have a high resolution, preferably 5 mega pixels or higher, to get a good photo that can be edited nicely for internet use.
The first photo you should take is a conformation photo. To get this have your horse stand in the pose that is typical of its breed. This could be square, with front and back feet standing side-by-side, or offset, with the hind legs apart and the front feet square, or open, with all four legs showing, the ones closest to you in a bit while the ones away from you are spread further apart. Some breeds require the horse to stand in a special stretched position. If you are not familiar with setting your horse up this way just stick with the basic square, offset or open positions.
The idea of the conformation photo is to show off how your horse is put together. She should stand as straight as possible without resting any legs. The surface she is standing on should be level so that she does not appear to be downhill. Her neck should be relaxed and if possible stretched forwards slightly to extend it. If you can, try to get a shot with her ears forward and a pleasant expression on her face.
Take advantage of the fact that you can take multiple shots with your digital camera. You can always edit out the bad shots afterwards. Get several shots from both sides so your clients can get a good idea of what your horse looks like. Be sure to bend down a bit, or even kneel so that the camera is looking at the horse straight-on rather than from a downwards angle. This is especially important if you are photographing a pony or small horse.
Next turn your horse loose in an enclosed area. Use your multi-shot option to take a series of photos of your horse walking, trotting and cantering. Try to get trot shots with the horse’s leg extended forward to show off how well she moves. Take as many pictures as you can keeping the image as close in to the horse as possible without cutting off her extremities.
Finally, if your horse is trained you need to tack her up and photograph her under saddle or in harness. Once again take as many pictures as you can. It is easier to weed out photographs that are no good than to have to start over and take fresh photos.
When posting an ad select the photo you feel best shows off your horse. If she is going under saddle be sure to use one with her working rather than just a free shot. Some websites allow multiple photos. If you use this feature make sure that you include at least one conformation shot, one movement shot and one under saddle or in harness shot. Head shots are a nice added touch, but are not good selling photos, so only add them if you have extra room.
Another good idea is to upload your photos to an online photo hosting site. You can then direct inquiries to the site instead of constantly having to attach pictures to your emails.
A good photo will attract buyer to come look at your horse. A bad one will only make them turn away. If you can’t get good photos you are better off not having a photo at all. Fortunately with modern technology and a bit of time you can get the pictures that will make the difference between a no-show and a sale.