View Full Version : Conformation shots - Update post #14

Clever Pony
Oct. 9, 2009, 12:18 PM
What exactly do you look for in a properly taken conformation shot?



Are either of these decent attempts?

Oct. 9, 2009, 12:33 PM
when you evaluate a horse's conformation, you want to stand 25-30 feet away and be looking at a horse who is standing entirely square.
For photos, you want to go by the same criteria - the horse should be square, you want to stand a little bit away, and make sure the camera is at an even level so that the view isn't skewed at all.

These are good attempts! Take two steps back and try to get the pony a little more square (he's not so bad in the second one). Also, the second shot is at a bit of an angle - it's not terribly awful though.

Oct. 9, 2009, 12:36 PM
Also - try to see if you can get the head and neck lower and stretched out a little

Maybe search for some photos of the pony or junior hunter model and you'll get a good idea of how they are supposed to be stood up

Oct. 9, 2009, 12:37 PM
the 1st is a better attempt than the second because of the stretching of the head and neck. Usually the front legs are slightly offset. I like the near leg to be straight down from the shoulder, with the far leg slightly behind. Makes the shoulders look more angular. The hind legs should be offset, again with near leg directly under the horse. Practical Horseman has some ideas as does this website: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://equisearch.com/horses_care/health/anatomy/conformation_square_box_500.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.equisearch.com/horses_care/health/anatomy/conformation_clinic_hunter_jumper_070209/&usg=__mXAN-LAmjNqJYifoT8jDnZnbEKU=&h=346&w=500&sz=56&hl=en&start=53&um=1&tbnid=MrXVNRVJbR2e1M:&tbnh=90&tbnw=130&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dconformation%2Bhunter%26ndsp%3D20%26h l%3Den%26safe%3Dactive%26rlz%3D1C1GPMD_enUS344US34 4%26sa%3DN%26start%3D40%26um%3D1
And you need FABULOUS grooming (shiny, fit, clipped), natural light is better than the yellow glow of the lights in your indoor, and a well fitted bridle.
I'd work a bit more then re-shoot your pictures.

Oct. 9, 2009, 12:38 PM
I much prefer the first shot to the second. You positioned yourself well in relation to the horse, but are a little closer to the hind end in the second than you would need to be. In taking a conformation shot you would want to be able to see all four legs, similar to how you stood the horse up in the first. The far front should be slightly behind the near front and the far hind should be slightly ahead of the near hind. Generally if you are looking to take a shot of a sale horse you'd want to shoot outside, with a background that wouldn't detract from the horse. You'd also want to ask the to stretch down a bit and stretch her top line, with her ears up.

Here is an example:


Oct. 9, 2009, 12:42 PM
This is a little far away but you can get the general idea


Lieb Schon
Oct. 9, 2009, 12:56 PM
This will be a great thread! You'll also probably get a lot of different responses. Here goes mine!

In terms of how to stand the horse, assuming you mean hunters, since you are asking here, I'll use the 1st picture. The front legs should be square, not separated like your picture. If you are taking the picture of the horse's left side, as in your example, the back legs are correct with the far leg being more forward than the near hind. If you were to take the photo of the horse's right side, again front legs square, and hind offset with the far leg further forward. The head and neck should be down and slightly stretched forward with pricked ears. In order to achieve this with minimal headache, you need 3 people. One to shoot, one to hold the lead and a whip to tap the horse to keep it from moving forward and changing the stance, and a 3rd person to be between first and second person with the bait. Good bait to get a great expression is to tie a plastic bag on to a stick or whip. Keep it low toward the ground and shake it as necessary. This person should be behind the lead holder, but slightly to the side of the photographer.

Plan the shoot in natural light, preferably bright sunlight around 12 to 1 pm so you won't cast a lot of shadows. Make sure the sun is directly behind the photographer for all shots. Stand the horse on FLAT pavement. Second best would be very finely cut grass (think putting green.) Pavement is better. Grass that covers the hoof is bad as it changes the proportions of the horse to the eye when viewed in a picture. Lastly, pick a nice background. Don't have a tree chopping the horse in half. Or a porto potty. And the background should contrast the horse's color. Use a tripod to level the camera. It distorts the angle when a too tall person takes a picture of a pony, or vice versa.

Last, grooming. Ideally, horse should be groomed for discipline at A rated show. Bathed, clipped, mane and tail pulled and braided properly, hoof oil, bridled, (no saddle, bandages, boots, ect.) If braiding isn't possible, then mane should be pulled short and even.
Hope that helps!:D

Oct. 9, 2009, 12:59 PM
Here are some really good examples. All of them are thoroughbred yearlings about to go through the australian thoroughbred sales.



Oct. 9, 2009, 01:01 PM
Look at http://cksporthorses.com/sales.html - clean groomed shiny horses, simple background, square horses. If you stand at about the shoulder of the horse, crouching a bit if necessary (camera should be about level with the midline of the body or you'll get some odd distortions), angling back to the hip just a tiny bit, you usually get a pretty good shot.

Oct. 9, 2009, 01:12 PM
I agree this is a great thread. One thing I disagree with in one of the previous posts would be the time to shoot. She is right - you don't want shadows, but the main issue is that you don't want shadows on the horse. Shooting between 12 and 1 would be when the sun is highest in the sky and the whole underside of the horse would be shaded. The best times to shoot would be sunrise til about ten and then maybe 3 or 4 (depending on the time of year) til dusk. Also I think that standing a horse up in a hunter class warrants something different than standing a horse up for a photograph. In standing a horse up for a photograph you don't want the horse to be square, you want to be able to see all the legs. A few other things worth noting are that the photo should be taken at at least 200mm to avoid distortion in the body, and this is only possible with SLR cameras.

You would always want to use a handler, and prepare the handler with several toy like items to get the horse's attention. And I absolutely second what the others said about working with a horse that is clean, clipped, bathed, shiny and happy. All of these things shine through in the final product

Clever Pony
Oct. 9, 2009, 01:35 PM
All of this advice is very helpful! They were a first attempt and I really didn't expect for them to be right. I knew you were supposed to see all four legs, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember how each leg was to be positioned!

I'll reattempt with her better groomed, with an extra hand, and outside somewhere. I have a wonderful SLR that I'll be using and hopefully I can get something a little more decent!

tidy rabbit
Oct. 9, 2009, 02:15 PM
I have some decent conformation shots of my horses in my webshots album linked below in my sig line.

One thing that works well for me is to put a plastic bag on the end of a crop and either I, or a helper, move it around out of the view of the camera to get the horse's attention.

Also, I like to keep my camera level with the horse's belly so I'm not shooting down on the horse.

Oct. 9, 2009, 04:34 PM
I think you've gotten many good suggestions. I struggle with this a lot trying to get conformation shots that represent the horse well. I would say to be sure your horse is clean and trimmed otherwise it's distracting. Also, I don't like the shots of the front legs together, no 3 legged horses, it looks odd. Here are some of my attempts and they aren't perfect, I'm always trying to get better shots.

Clever Pony
Oct. 10, 2009, 05:54 PM
Attempt two!

So, I know these aren't perfect. I'd love a further critique on my second attempt.

I know the shadows in the first are not ideal and it would have been nice, now that I look at the pictures at home, if the grass had been shorter and not covered her hooves.





Oct. 10, 2009, 08:50 PM
All of them look good conformationally, you're getting better. Now you have shadows and distracting backgrounds to contend with. Background in pic one is the best, nice plain barn wall. Pics two three and four are better pics, without the shadows but the backgrounds have distractions (like a mud hole in the paddock). You might have it down next time.

Oct. 10, 2009, 09:06 PM
The second attempt was much better. Personally, I prefer to see the horse in a bridal verses a halter. Also, her front legs are too square in all the photos, conformation shots need to show the viewer all four legs.

Oct. 10, 2009, 09:10 PM
*bridle. I can't believe I just misspelled that

Clever Pony
Oct. 10, 2009, 09:52 PM
The mud puddle is an easy one to fix:

But I see what you mean about not seeing all four legs. She has never been bridled before and that will be the next step for her at some point in the near future. I know it'll look far better in pictures.

Oct. 10, 2009, 10:41 PM
Try to work the top line a bit. I am sending along a pic of an 18 month old large pony who we pulled straight out of the pasture and took the picture. My angle is off a bit, to me, but I think we did get some expression with the head and topline.

Oct. 10, 2009, 11:29 PM
The mud puddle is an easy one to fix:

But I see what you mean about not seeing all four legs. She has never been bridled before and that will be the next step for her at some point in the near future. I know it'll look far better in pictures.

I don't know about photoshopping it like that, a little distracting to me as you can tell something is up. Makes me wonder if you might've touched up the horse as well. Although I do agree grass looks better than a mud hole.

Oct. 11, 2009, 12:08 AM
Look at http://cksporthorses.com/sales.html - clean groomed shiny horses, simple background, square horses.

That's a good group of pictures to compare and contrast. In several of them, the photographer was just a hair towards the front of the horse, or the horse was standing at just a little bit of an angle. If you look at the bottom picture of the chestnut Andrew, you can see the photographer was really standing at a right angle and even with the middle of the horse, with a very plain background, which resulted in an excellent picture. (Many attractive horses, BTW!)

Grayfox, holy cow, that brown horse is incredibly shiny!

The greatest thing about digital cameras is that you can take a million shots of animals, and just delete the 90-95% that don't turn out quite right. In the good old days, you had to develop all that film and THEN toss the bad shots! :lol: