Advice for Photographing Horseback Riding

turnthedarncranksturnthedarncranks Posts: 116Member
edited May 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras
I've taken a number of less than creative shots of my daughter riding. Other than trying to pan while she's on the move (a skill I am working on), and getting as low as possible to make her jumps look more epic, any thoughts on creative shots or good settings? I usually can get pretty close, or at least close enough to easily zoom to a very tight shot. Equipment is a D7000 with the 35mm 1.8G, 50mm 1.8D, and the kit 18-105 and 55-300.



  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    I am by no means an expert, but here's what I would try. The bond between horse and rider needs to be strong in order to perform well together. Take shots of the two of them as you would two friends, standing next to each other, perhaps her hugging the horse, feeding an apple, placing the saddle, or bridle, or other tack. Brushing the horse, etc, you get the idea. Think of some of the classic poses of statues of generals on horseback, horse rearing up, front hooves clawing the air prepared to rush into battle :-) I'll stop now.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    My opinion only......Don't pose any shots.... follow her around with her horse, the 18-105 is good, shoot everything you can when she is at the stable from arrival to departure. Just try not to be in the way. Allow her to do what she does with her horse in the usual course of the day. Shoot backlit and front. I would avoid flash. My guess is this is about a 150-300 shot job over about three hours.

    You will get about five great shots if your technical skills are OK. Be aware of proper horse/human spatial relationships, i.e., do not walk up behind the horse.

    Just my thoughts on how i would do it....
    Msmoto, mod
  • GarethGareth Posts: 159Member
    My guess would be that when you try and get the whole horse in shot you have a large DOF and a good chance of a cluttered background.

    I would do as both ironheart and msmoto have suggested, but also walk around just with your camera and try and work out some angles where the background is clear. then when they walk past these areas you will know where to stand and what to look out for to get a nice uncluttered background.

    IMO a tight crop that looks nice is a lot easier to achieve than a landscape where the horse and rider are the point of focus.

    Maybe start with a range of tight crops with the zoom, then when you have enough of those move on to environmental portraits with your daughter and just part of the horse, then move up to landscape portraits.

    If you are at at stage where you are good enough to look at a whole scene and predict ideal composition (e.g. fence and trees create leading lines to subject when she is ...) then I don't need to tell you to do this, if you are not then practice practice practice.
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,200Member
    edited May 2013
    Things I would consider trying:

    Shoot a few photos from a 6 or 8 foot ladder to see if that angle appeals to you. The horse is essentially much, much bigger than your daughter so the angle from higher up might bring more balance to the overall look of the images. Have them prance around as you take these pictures to see how you like them. For wider angle views capture a few shots with the foreground and daughter/horse taking up 75-80% of the image from bottom to top with 20-25% of horizon at the top of the frame. Silhouettes with the setting sun in the background might be cool as well.

    For the jumps consider pre-focusing on the item that the horse will be jumping over. Might take a bit of practice. Put your setting on its fastest frame rate, make sure your shutter speed is fast enough to freeze motion. Also make sure aperture is such that your DOF is deep enough to keep the area of interest in focus. Once pre-focused, reel off several frames at the horse's initial leap. I don't know how easily it is to spook this horse but if you can position yourself aft the jump and off to the side to do this it might produce good results.
    Post edited by Rx4Photo on
    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • turnthedarncranksturnthedarncranks Posts: 116Member
    Thanks, all! I will try all of this over the coming weeks. I took a bunch of shots yesterday and only found 1 or 2 really to my liking. One thing I was surprised to discover was that when using the 18-105 to shoot her jumping, the best location I had called for zooming it to 35mm. So I will try the 35 mm prime next time for those shots. The best part about this process is that she has lessons every week, and often I have nothing to do during them except shoot, shoot, and shoot some more! (In fact, the barn has some really cool buildings I may have to shoot as well.) Thanks again!
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator
    I think your D7000 has AF-C and in this mode it will engage in "predictive focus tracking". So, by using AF-Continouos servo mode, the horse/rider coming over a jump should be in focus almost all the time once the camera has "locked on".
    The idea is to press the shutter release half way initially, allowing the camera to focus, then a moment later begin your five or six frame burst at the highest FPS you can use. My guess is a shutter speed for the jump shots will be in the 1/500 to 1/1000 sec range.
    For panning shots, use about 1/2 the inverse focal length for the shutter speed. That is, for a 100mm lens, pan at about 1/50th sec. If you can not accomplish what you desire with this technique, then try 1/100th or slightly faster. You can expect about 20% of your pan shots will be tack sharp if the technique is good. Some are better than others at this.

    Msmoto, mod
  • spraynprayspraynpray Posts: 6,545Moderator
    FWIW I agree with trying some from a higher vantage point, but only a yard or so if you are standing. Some nice shots could be had of just the horse and riders heads so you can get the ears back etc. If it is a riding school horse though you may not get that as they have a leather-gummed 'been here done this a thousand times' resignation about them which is less photogenic.
    Always learning.
  • ElvisheferElvishefer Posts: 329Member
    No flash for action shots.

    You don't want a distracted horse.
    D700, 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII, 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4G, 200mm f/4 Micro, 105mm f/2.8 VRII Micro, 35mm f/1.8, 2xSB900, 1xSB910, R1C1, RRS Support...

    ... And no time to use them.
  • ibecameweibecamewe Posts: 32Member
    I have some advice for better actions photos
    Use a shutter speed over 1/1000th to freeze your subject.
    If the subject is moving fast. you will need at least a speed of 1/500th or more. Most digital have speeds above these settings so there should not be a problem having a fast enough speed.
    If in doubt set your SLR to sports mode and the camera will work out the settings automatically.
    In sports mode you will have the fastest possible shutter speed.
    Set your shutter speeds according to the result you want to achieve i.e. either a frozen subject or capturing the movement (blur).
    Try not to let your shutter speed get below 1/60th as this is the slowest speed one can hand hold a camera without a tripod. At this speed and below you will always get motion blur.

    This post have a nice information on horse riding photography shooting
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