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Exploring Equine Studio Photography

Updated: Mar 24

Equine studio fine art photography is a niche genre that merges the art of flash photography with the majestic beauty of horses. This form of artistry is not merely about capturing images of horses; it's about conveying emotions and showcasing the innate elegance and soulful nature of these magnificent creatures. In this blog post, we'll delve into the essence of equine studio fine art photography, explore the challenges and rewards it presents, and offer tips for both photographers and horse enthusiasts interested in this captivating field.

A beautiful portrait of a white horse hanging over the bed
© 2024 Mareish Media LLC

The Essence of Equine Studio Fine Art Photography

At its core, equine studio fine art photography is about creating portraits that transcend ordinary representations, transforming them into pieces of art that express the personality, grace, and spirit of the horse. Unlike traditional equine photography, which might focus on the animal using natural light or continuous artificial light sources, studio work allows for total control of the lighting, backgrounds, and compositions, enabling the photographer to craft a specific atmosphere or mood.

Challenges in the Studio

One of the primary challenges of this genre is the studio environment itself. Horses are large, powerful animals, and bringing them into a traditional photography studio setting requires careful planning and safety measures. The space must be large enough to accommodate the horse comfortably and safely, with safe non-slip footing, adequate ventilation, and lighting. Flight animals need an escape route so consider how a panicked horse will be safely guided from the studio if needed. Trip hazards are another big consideration. Using studio strobes with power cables is optimal for the fastest flash durations and power but is a trip hazard for both horses and handlers. Consider battery-operated strobes especially if you want your studio to be mobile. The light stands are also a trip hazard so optimally you'd be in a space with a rail system to alleviate that issue.

Often I'm using a mobile studio set up in a barn or other indoor space but my goal is to create a permanent equine studio space in Ocala, Florida.

© 2024 Mareish Media LLC

Are Horses Afraid of Flash?

Gosh, I hear this all the time, but I've never experienced a horse panicking in my studio. I have had some horses who are more sensitive to the flash than others. Most horses acclimate to the flash within a few times flashing the light, but others will continue to blink in response to the light every time. If horses are worried about anything in my studio it's usually the extra-large backdrops which can be 10' or 20' tall and 20' or 40' wide depending on the space. I always take time to acclimate the horses to the studio environment and I have photographed horses as young as 8 days old and as old as 29. Working with animals requires patience and a deep understanding of equine behavior to capture their true essence without causing stress or discomfort.

The Horse-Handler Relationship

A successful equine studio fine art photograph is often the result of good communication between the horses and their handlers. Handlers need to have the horsemanship skills to both manage the horses and to guide them into specific postures, without exerting so much control that the horse appears unnatural. It's a very specific talent that requires equestrians with empathy and an ability to communicate with their subjects on an intuitive level. Building trust with the horse is crucial, as it allows the animal to relax and show its genuine personality, leading to more authentic and impactful images. I prefer building relationships with trainers who consistently work with me, so they understand what I want from them and when I want them to remove themselves from the frame to let the horses be themselves.

Here is one of my favorite horse handlers, Christopher Webb, encouraging the specific shape I want to capture from my own Zowie.

Behind the scenes of an equine fine art photography photoshoot
© 2024 Mareish Media LLC

Capturing the Equine Soul

The goal of equine fine art photography is to go beyond the physical beauty of horses and capture something more intangible: their soul. This requires a creative vision and the ability to see beyond the surface. Photographers often look for unique expressions, gestures, or movements that reveal the horse's individual character and spirit. The challenge lies in capturing these fleeting moments in a way that resonates with viewers on an emotional level. Horses are not the same as human models who can hold a specific pose or alter it slightly on request. The studio photographer has to master their camera and lighting setup so they can focus on grabbing the special moments their equine muses present to them.

The gorgeous Grand Prix Dressage Lusitano stallion Absoluto da Prata (Lukas) demonstrates exactly one of these fleeting moments.

Wall art of a handsome stallion
© 2024 Mareish Media LLC

Tips for Aspiring Equine Studio Fine Art Photographers

  1. Understand Horse Behavior: Spend time around horses to get a feel for their personalities and how they communicate. This knowledge is invaluable in the studio.

  2. Master Lighting: Lighting can dramatically alter the mood of your photographs. Experiment with different setups to find what best highlights the beauty and form of your equine subjects.

  3. Be Patient: Great shots cannot be rushed, especially with animals. Be prepared to wait for the perfect moment.

  4. Photoshoot Halters: Buy or make yourself a set of ultra-thin simple halters that are easy to photoshop off in post-processing. Usually made of paracord there are quite a few options on the market in all the main horse coat colors.

  5. Composition: Think of what you want to capture as your final image and try to get as close as you can in-camera. Sometimes you'll want to shoot a little wider to give you options to twist and crop the final image.

  6. Collaborate: Work with horse owners, trainers, or handlers who can help keep the horse calm and direct it as needed during the shoot.


Equine studio fine art photography is a testament to the profound bond between humans and horses. It offers a unique opportunity to explore the depth of emotion and beauty these animals embody. For photographers, it's a challenging but rewarding field that requires a blend of technical skill, creativity, and empathy. For horse lovers, it provides a new lens through which to appreciate the creatures they adore. Whether you're behind the camera or simply admiring the art, equine studio fine art photography has the power to move and inspire.

Let me know in the comments what topics you'd like me to cover in my future Photography Masterclass blog posts.

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