Friday, November 9, 2007

Good pictures, bad pictures - photographing babies

I am often asked for advice on how to stay off this blog. While obviously, breeding quality horses and having a farm that doesn't look like a scene out of Deliverance helps a lot, photography is another big factor. Now, you don't have to hire a pro to get great horse pictures, but you do have to learn some basic skills if you are marketing your product on the Internet - and that's what you're doing, if you're a horse breeder with a web site.

Today I'm going to talk a little bit about photographing weanlings, because I hear people complain that their weaners won't pose, and you can't get good pictures of them, and blah blah. To begin with, you have to know what you are trying to show off for your breed and type of horse. If you have a stock type breed (AQHA, APHA, ApHC), most likely you're going to want to show off the hip. If you have an Arabian, you'll want to show off an elegant neck and head, and so on. And you are advertising here - so choose angles that minimize the horse's weaknesses (of course I hope there aren't too many of those, if it's a baby you bred!)

First rule of thumb - Absolutely nothing looks good from this angle. Just avoid the head-on, looking-down makes the head look humongous and the body look tiny and weak. This is a well-bred AQHA colt of cutting horse lines, but this angle makes him look an awful lot like a grade Quarab.
In general, don't take pictures from any angle above the horse. You want to be level with the horse's side/chest or slightly below.

Now here's a free shot of a baby Morgan that turned out beautifully. When your baby is standing with the near (to the camera) leg slightly back, that shows off the hip the best. The baby is alert and looking at something, not half-asleep in a milk coma. You can see from this picture that we have a baby with excellent balance, a killer shoulder, and a pretty, high set neck as is appropriate for her breed and type. (And yes, babies who are slightly over at the knee like this do straighten out. It's only if they're back at the knee that I worry.) This is a young foal presented very well for sale. I will also note that Momma is in exceptionally good condition and that counts for a lot. Nothing's worse than seeing a nice baby standing in front of his ribby mother who looks like she hasn't seen the farrier or a tube of dewormer in 10 years.

Sometimes it is best to photograph your baby while it is still in the cute, cuddly stage and before it enters the awkward almost-a-yearling stage. This seller missed the cute express and is now stuck with the gawky stage.

That said, I am still pretty sure I could have taken a cuter sale picture of this filly than this one. I think there may be a reasonably attractive head hiding in the bucket, and I do not think her neck is actually as short as this angle shows it to be. This is a case where standing her up, getting her ears forward, and applying some Show Sheen could have done wonders. As shown, this filly looks way too much like a goat, and her hind leg position is not doing her topline any favors.

It would be difficult to find a worse pose for this filly. The irony is that the ad touts her as a halter prospect. Um, no. That hip doesn't have to look as bad as it does from this bad angle, but it is not the hip of a halter horse.

If I were going to photograph this filly, I would set her up straight and then make sure to stretch out her neck with her head in profile so that her neck looks longer. It's already low set, ideal for a western pleasure prospect. If her near leg were back, her hip would look better. If her legs are straight, I might just default to the three-quarter from the front shot - but taken LEVEL with the horse, not looking down. You might have to play around with different angles, but there is a way to photograph this filly so that she looks a lot better than this!

This is a very pretty picture of an AQHA halter quality weanling. He is in perfect condition, posed correctly and beautifully presented. What a cute face, and you can see the personality in it. I like baby pictures where they may be spit-shined and ready to show, but the face still looks like that of a curious, cute baby.

Best of all, he is HYPP N/N. Kudos to his breeders!

OK, this is a yearling but I had to point it out because it is a picture that makes the filly's left front look like it's twisted underneath her and deformed. I am fairly sure she is not like that in real life, but the angle is awful. People, don't sabotage your horses like this.
She is shiny and otherwise looks great - take a better picture, please!

And then we have this filly. While more feed and some deworming will help, my best advice on this yearling is wait a year so that you can cover up as much as her as possible with some really pretty tack. While photoshop could help her every bit as much as it helps Kelly Clarkson, there's no way to genuinely take a good picture of this one!
Structurally, this really ISN'T such a bad filly. But condition-wise, she shouldn't even be pictured at this point. You are just embarrassing your breeding program by putting this picture on the web.