How to Edit Perfect Dressage Photos

Dressage is a sport all about perfection, fluidity, and being one with the horse. That leads to the question: How do I Edit Perfect Dressage Photos? That is where this nifty post comes in. To have a beautifully edited photo, you need to have a good base to start on. Within this post, you will learn about shapes to look for and the basic editing to make your equine photos professional.

What Makes a Good Dressage Photo?

The best photographs highlight how well a horse moves: how much lift it gets off the floor and how much it flexes its joints at various points in the stride. In lower-level competitions, do not expect the grand movements and gestures as seen by Dressage sensations Charlotte Dujardin or Lottie Fry. Instead, look for lines.

Take a look at the image below to understand what to look for:

dressage horse diagram of what to look for in an image and the edit perfect dressage photos.
Dressage at Saint Lo, Manche 2022

If you know nothing about horse riding or are new to the sport, look for lines and symmetry. All other composition rules apply to sport too, but bear in mind these certain aspects:

Red – The legs are reaching, balance and show a wide range of motion. Having the legs straight is more visually appealing for a profile shot as it shows balance.

Yellow – The horse is balanced and holding itself in a frame. The horse is a rectangle and is not leaning on its front or back.

Green – The horse is near behind the vertical. You are ideally looking for a perpendicular line.

How to Edit Perfect Dressage Photos

Editing flow varies from person to person. When it comes to sports photography, I personally like to make my picks first and then edit. In lightroom, I use the colour label and flag features to make my first picks and the export picks.

Adobe Lightroom library window

Once I have made the picks I then like to think mainly about the following:

White Balance
Horse coat colour


Setting the white balance first makes it easier to work with the image. You can do this with the auto, or by selecting a neutral colour with the picker tool. After this, make sure the lens corrections are on and off we go!

The Horse coat colour will be the main focus of editing. For a grey, it is easier to bring out the contrasts, the muscles and the details. A black horse or darker bay horse, it is more complicated to bring out details. For the darker horses, I like to use the shadow slider and brush tool to really bring out the details. As seen in the example below:

editing window of black horse during a dressage test

The background of an image is equally as important. Make sure there is nothing that takes away from the subject. If you can be aware of this while taking photos, even better. However, sometimes garish backgrounds can not be avoided. The easiest thing to do to help this is to create a de-sharpening mask. You can do this by using the “subject select” tool and then select invert. Use the texture, clarity, and sharpness sliders to create the desired effect.

Easy Dressage Lightroom Preset

You can try this yourself, or try out some premade presets to help you on mastering editing.

My last set of Equestrian presets are seeming to be super popular, so I have created a new pack full of different presets to enhance Dressage images. Presets are suitable for all Equine sports, but be aware they are specifically with the discipline of dressage in mind.

To add presets to your lightroom library, simply exact the zip folder and Import the presets via File>Import Develop Profiles and Presets…

For extracting the zip folder on an iPad, you will need to download an app for this capability or extract it on a computer to move back over to your tablet.

Et voila! You have your presets ready to go!

How to Edit Perfect Dressage Photos

The presets are made with the different colour coats in mind, from greys, chestnuts, bays, blacks and more!

For examples of this preset see my latest Equestrian themed posts:

a post edit of a dressage competition where a grey mare is reaching.
Dressage at Saint Lo, Manche 2022

With this set of presets, I have included adjustments of exposure on each one making it even easier to edit your photos with Adobe Lightroom.

Please note that all the images are edited from canon raw files and exported to jpeg. Results for jpeg images may vary.

To get these presets and more, click the link below!


Published by Briony-Molly

Photographer & Designer. Horse Owner, Book Fanatic

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