Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lexington Living as an Equine Photographer

I'm on my way home after some quality time in Lexington. I continue to look for boarding places and the only ones I can find are jumping barns - ugh... I will keep on looking since I have time.

My fiance, Matt, has an interesting job which I enjoy tagging along when possible.

As a professional photographer in Lexington, Matt's primary business comes from shooting photos for the big farms in and around the area. Their focus, of course, is on their "big boys" - aka the stallions. One farm that calls on Matt's photography skills is Pauls Mill. Matt has taken many of the photos on their website of this stunningly beautiful farm but this time Pauls Mill was looking for a stallion conformation shot of their stallion US Ranger.

Conformations shots are exceptionally important in advertising the stallions. You want to show off their highlights the best way you can, try to catch the eye of the potential customer but it must also be a uniform shot so that one stallion can be compared with another. This is traditionally a left side conformation shot with the front right leg back slightly and the right back up slightly, ears pricked and the head not too high. Just look at this photo of leading sire, Giant's Causeway (or any other thoroughbred stallion in the registry).

The owner of Pauls Mill called Matt and asked him to try to get a shot which might be a little different but not too different... Something to make his stallion pop! The owner of Pauls Mill had his staff shine and buff US Ranger and Matt came out to work on the shoot Friday afternoon. It was foggy and misty outside - a HORRIBLE day for an outdoor shot.

The plan for the shot was to use their breeding room as a back drop (it's the end of a renovated old tobacco barn beautifully converted to the stallion barn). Matt brought some flashes mounted on stands, pointed them at the horse who would stand in the doorway. The flashes had a colored filter on them to mimic sunlight. Yes we can create sunshine! Then the camera was underexposed for the conditions so that when the flash went off, the horse would be lit up and perfectly exposed and everything else around him would be dark.

This is what it looked like when Matt was shooting:

There is one farm staffer holding the stallion, one helping with the leg placement and removing dust and such off of him, me with a tape recorder of horse whinnies to prick his ears.

US Ranger was pretty good. We had a tough time getting his ears pricked but he wasn't too bad about setting his legs. He wasn't perfect but he wasn't too bad. And WOW is he gorgeous!! Huge, muscular, solid built, sigh...

This is what Matt ended up with for a conformation shot...

I think that is such a cool shot of a cool horse!

Matt is also asked to shoot photos of "the babies" at some of his farms. This is a test of patience! As you can imagine, foals, weanlings and yearlings suffer from the "wiggle worm disease" and just need to be on the move all the time. To get them to set up with their legs in a certain position, looking in the right direction and their ears pricked is a challenge at best. We shot some pictures of a couple yearlings and we discovered that my tape of horse whinnies was too much sensory overload for them. One of the yearlings had to be shot with a buddy standing nearby just outside of the shot to settle down.

Matt's client needed the photos right away so we couldn't wait around for the sun to come out. Therefore Matt created sunshine with his flash and filter. Amazingly, the pop of the flash didn't bother a single horse.

And probably one of the biggest challenges come with the newborns. Not only do you have to set up a new born foal but also the foals dam. Again, patience and understanding is needed or you'll go crazy.

This little guy is a little more than 24 hours old. This is my shot of the action behind the scenes but you can see he is perfectly set-up for a left side conformation with his mom's front legs showing between her foals front and back legs. Everyone struck the pose like professionals! Mom's a super model and proud to show off her first baby... ;) The little guy is so new that his legs are still working out the kinks from being folded up tightly inside his mom. So cute!

It was fun to tag along with Matt and it also gave me a new appreciation of the work behind a simple conformation shot!


  1. Thanks for a behind the scenes look at how all the filters and flashes work. I've done just a little with animal shoots (mostly to work from when I do commissioned scratchboard portraits), so know about the patience part!

  2. Gorgeous pictures of gorgeous horses. It's the perfect blog. ;-)

    The stallion shot is pretty impressive.

  3. That's a fantastic conformation shot by Matt...

    Can't get enough of the foal shots. No doubt he'll be very busy for the next wee while!!


  4. Great photos Wendy! Love the baby shots :)

  5. Saw your shots on your photoshop or whatever the other day! You are so great at action shots!


  6. Sorry Wendy---------Flicker, not photoshop!!


  7. What a cool job to have. I'm looking forward to going to Lexington this year and touring a big horse farm :) Great pictures I like the mom and foal shot.