Photographing Horses and Other Animals Together

Photographing horses and other animals together can create heartwarming images that capture the relationships and dynamics between different species. This is a great opportunity to create memorable photographs that tell a story and evoke emotion.

If you shoot for clients, being able to add other animals to your equestrian shoot is a huge plus. By including their extended family you’ll be able to tell the full story by highlighting that special connection they have with their pets.

This will also give you more images for your client to choose from and there’s a potential upsell here for albums, wall groupings, etc. It will also increase your bookings by setting you apart from your competitors.

My favorite pairing is Dogs and Horses. Working cattle dogs or action shots of a dog running alongside a horse is one of my favorites. Always keep in mind that safety is your #1 priority.

Ensure the safety of all animals involved. Some animals may not naturally get along, so it’s important to supervise them closely.

Knowing your subjects, understanding the behavior and temperament of both the horses and the other animals will help you predict their movements and interactions.

Capture candid moments. Allow the animals to get comfortable with each other and capture their natural behavior. If they are not comfortable around each other, you may want to consider doing a composite image.

For posed shots use treats, toys, or the owner to get the animals to look in the same direction or to encourage a particular pose. Don’t forget those phone apps!

I prefer available ambient light to create a soft, natural look. Early morning or late afternoon light is best (nice even light).

Choose a location that complements your subjects. A barn, pasture, or open field will provide a nice backdrop. Black background images are always a classic.

Capture close-up shots of the animals’ faces, hooves, or paws together to highlight their features and the contrasts between size.

Working with animals requires patience. Be prepared to wait for the right moment and take lots of shots to increase your chances of capturing the perfect one.

When working with ranch livestock such as cattle or herds of horses, keep it real. Be sure to plan for this shoot by speaking with the wranglers in detail about what is expected. Refer to them and what they know about the horses or cattle they will be herding for the photo shoot. Not every herd is accustomed to being moved on horseback.

Be sure the area that will be used for driving the herds of horses or cattle has been checked to insure the safety of all involved, animal and human. Are there badger holes or lose barbwire, rocky or uneven terrain that will make it hard to traverse? Consider every angle, don’t ask your wranglers to do anything they are not comfortable with.

If you have a group of photographers, it’s important to have a big presence, in an attempt to divert the herd in a direction away from people. Don’t stress the herds too much by repeating the same scenario over and over, especially when it’s hot. Know when to quit!

It’s also important anytime you have loose animals be sure to keep an eye out behind you as well!

Remember silhouettes can be a wonderful addition to your gallery of horses and other animals, especially including dogs!

Technical aspects: Be sure you have a fast shutter speed to capture movement. A wide aperture can help create a beautiful depth of field, highlighting the animals against a softly blurred background. However, if you have large herds, you will most likely want a higher aperture for more depth of field. Be sure your focus is sharp on the animals’ eyes.

If you’d like to learn more first hand be sure to check out my future workshops and events!

To hear Kim, Cara and I talk about working with other animals in your equine sessions

be sure to head over to our Cowgirls with Cameras Podcast.