Horses have been a part of human culture for thousands of years. Wild horses are even in prehistoric cave paintings, and since being domesticated, they’ve only grown in importance. Although cars and tractors have made horses less common in modern society, they’re still a big part of art and culture.
Like dogs and other domesticated animals, horses are great subjects to photograph because they carry so much meaning. They can inspire feelings like peacefulness and nostalgia. Even if the viewer has never personally ridden a horse, they’re likely to have seen a movie or read a book with horses, which the image can bring back.
Besides, horses are beautiful animals. As the novelist John Galsworthy once stated, “I am still under the impression that there is nothing alive quite so beautiful as a horse.” That alone makes them a wonderful subject to photograph. Here are some ideas to help you get the best shots of them.
Inspiration for Beautiful Photos of Horses
Horses Against a Level Horizon
This is a classic shot often shown in Western films. With a flat horizon and a generous amount of sky, your photo will have an open atmosphere and a sense of freedom. You don’t have to position the horse exactly on the horizon, though. The most important key is for the horizon to be level, not crooked, with plenty of sky and open space around the horse.
Mariano Colombotto – In search of a destination
Amine Fassi – The dog that didn't know who to follow
Troy Marcy Photography – Room to Run
Because horses are a familiar subject around the globe, their silhouettes are likewise easy to recognize. Even from a distance, a horse silhouette can look striking in a photo. You can get fantastic pictures of horse silhouettes against the horizon, but also on a beach with the silhouette mirrored in the water.
Richard Watkins LRPS – Camber Sands
Carlos Sarmento – Horse riding Gili Trawangan sunset
Horses in Black and White
Most horses have neutral-colored hair. Their coats are often in shades of black, white, or brown – colors that won’t stand out next to bright colors like a pure blue sky. To make horses more noticeable in a colorful scene, try shooting in black and white. Then, viewers will notice the contrast between light and dark rather than the colors.
Shirren Lim – [grace. beauty. spirit. freedom]
Kristina Truluck – Built on Trust
Horses in the Mist
Mist can have a beautiful effect on a landscape, but photographing mist alone can lead to uninteresting images. The best misty photos have something that viewers can focus on, ideally a strong subject like a horse. This subject will give viewers a visual anchor, drawing them into the scene.
swapnil deshpande – Timeless moments
James Drury – tree, fog, horse
Shirren Lim – < horse sleighing >
Catherine Reznitchenko – Cheval dans la brume
Action Photos of Horses
To capture the gracefulness and power of horses, try photographing them when they’re galloping or jumping. You can use a slow shutter speed to create motion blur or a fast shutter speed to freeze the action, capturing the horse in midair. For photos with a fast shutter speed, try shooting somewhere with dust or water. Then, the dust or water will fly into the air, making your shot more impressive.
LENORE HOLT-DARCY – Carmargue Horses
Koen Jacobs – I've been through the desert
Candid Portraits with Horses
Animals can help make nervous models loosen up during a portrait shoot, and horses are no exception. When a model is petting, riding, or feeding a horse, they tend to act more naturally than when they’re posing for a portrait. Particularly if the model loves horses, planning a shoot with a horse can lead to great, authentic portraits.
Mariano Colombotto – Good friends
Stefan Schmitz – Tempo (our Haflinger) and Katrin
Close-up Photos of Horses
Horses aren’t just beautiful from far away. You can get cool shots from up close, too. Taking close-up shots allows you to experiment with texture or try different angles, photographing the horse from above or below. Even small details, like their wispy mane or long eyelashes, can be nice subjects for a photo.
Yane Naumoski – Day 306: Buddies
Amine Fassi – That's when the old mare whispered to the boy who wanted to become a Fantasia knight
Many of the above photos were selected from our Flickr group. Next time you get a great picture of a horse, add it to the group so we can admire it!