Today I had the privilege of shadowing Storm Equine Photography, a small business based in Ceredigion specialising in horse photography, and they are very very good at it. From working with them today here are the few things that I took from it all.
I was working with their equipment, in this instance, a Nikon D4 paired with a sigma 70-200mm lens. This camera has amazing capabilities and to get the best shots you can use all of its fantastic features. For instance using the auto ISO sensitivity to not go past 6400 and not letting the shutter speed drop down lower than 1/250, as show jumping is a fast-paced sport in which you need a fast shutter and quick light reactor, especially when working in overcast conditions or in an indoor arena. It’s always best to shoot in an aperture between f4.0-5f.6 to get the full focus of the horse and rider. This may start to seem noisy, but it’s an easy fix post-shoot and not very noticeable.
How to Take Great Show Jumping Photographs
Framing the photo is just as important as getting the settings right. For a good frame, you want to have the rider’s centre be central. Ideally, you want the horse in the centre of the jump, mainly as it shows symmetry and balance in the horse and rider as well as making the picture look symmetrical. Ideally, you would want to get both wings of the jump in to frame the jump and also give the height of the jump. Also leave space above the rider’s head as well as a small space for the flooring to give room for cropping and straightening, especially if you have a slight cant like me.
Another fantastic point I picked up is that you want to get the shot from a 45 degree to capture the length and depth of the leap the horse is taking. This works especially well for landscape shots. To work portrait it’s better to work tight to the subject, incorporating the horse’s tucked front feet, the rider and the top bar. In this example, you can see how the horse and rider fill the frame completely making it a more dramatic shot.
Something else to consider is what part of the leaping action makes the best photos. In the two examples here you can see that it’s the takeoff, clearly showing the horse’s jump and folded front feet and the rider looking balanced. Anything past the horizontal jump and the drop-down generally looks messy although some people like it as an artistic shot, especially if the horse has a great shape and the rider looks engaged.
When “walking the course” notice the direction the rider is going to be riding in and find a position that can capture 2-3 jumps, try and include the branded/sponsored jumps as these are usually the shots riders and sponsors want. Make sure you aren’t in the way of the horse either, it may seem silly but getting a shot and you’re standing in the path of a fast-moving block of muscle is not a good idea. Keep clear of the jumps that haven’t been jumped and make sure you give yourself time to reposition yourself.
Things to remember and not stress about:
- There is nothing wrong with taking long bursts. The beauty of DSLRs means that it’s not the end of the world if you take too many pictures, you can simply go back and delete the ones you don’t want.
- Too wide is better than too close. In framing, if you aren’t sure always leave the shot slightly wider, you can always correct it in the edit.
- There is more than one jump in a course, don’t beat yourself up if you miss one, but try not to.
- Relax, Breath and enjoy yourself! Even if it works there’s no point getting in a tiff and stressing out about taking photos. Enjoy it!
- Practice makes perfect. Reading and doing research is one thing but actually getting out and trying it for yourself are two different things! Get out there and do stuff!
Have fun, laugh, smile and enjoy yourself!
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