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Taking (Great) Conformation Pictures

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  • Taking (Great) Conformation Pictures

    After reading the comments on the latest H/J conformation thread (Conformation Gurus!), which had the usual assortment spot-on comments, but mostly about the photo instead of the horse, I searched the reference forum and found nothing on conformation pictures/photos.

    So, here is the place.

    I often look at bad photos and wonder, "did they really just not know how to do this?"

    Then I see tons of great comments on how to get better shots, but they are scattered over every "look at my horse" tread, on every forum. There have been some great camera/photography threads recently as well, and some of that information would be useful here.

    If your comments apply to a particular discipline, say so in the title, I've no other suggested rules (it's a BB and nobody follows rules anyway).

    If such a thread already exists, great, post the link.
  • Original Poster

    #2
    It's not rocket science

    Here's my starter list of what I thought were common knowledge (sense?), but, er. don't seem to be...

    Clean horse.
    ...Clean horse...
    ...Clean horse.

    standing on level ground

    with feet plainly visible.

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm no photographer, but I do have a nice camera, and have found that my best shots are taken with a telephoto lens. So, I stand a bit further back and use the zoom. Also, when posing a horse, it's not always best to stretch their neck out as low as possible, I've just learned. Let them stand in as natural and relaxed pose as their conformation allows. (I'm talking about hunters.)

      Comment


      • #4
        I have been horse shopping and I have a collection of possibly the worst sale photos ever. However, I am silly enough to call on them anyway and ask for more pictures. They send me more of the same. I'd post them, but I am not that mean.

        When selling my mare, I got the best conformation pic of her with my son's Fisher Price camera, since my camera batteries were dead.

        Comment


        • #5
          the digital age is your friend - when I took pics of some friends horses, I think I took about 100 shots of pretty much the same horse in the same spot. But I would shoot from the midpoint, a hair forward, back, up or below, then adjust the feet or neck position. Wash, rinse, repeat. Every horse has its own best picture, and they aren't all from the same spot (although the degree of difference of shooting angle is insanely small). You just have to be able to hit that button a lot. Also, if it is really sunny, a circular polarizer filter and a hood goes a long way to improving the picture quality.
          Your crazy is showing. You might want to tuck that back in.

          Comment


          • #6
            The worst issue in taking pics is the ANGLE the photo is taken at. Even the NICEST horse can look AWFUL from the wrong angle. I try to take a side view, standing opposite the horses HIP. Make sure the horse is standing in a manner that compliments their conformation, usually the "open" position, which means the legs closest to you are "framing" the oposite tow legs on the other side, i.e the front leg on oposite side is SLIGHTLY behind the front leg on your side and the opposite hind leg is SLIGHTLY in front of the hind leg nearest you. I don't stretch the neck a LOT but I like to have hnadler hold a bit of grass or something to get horse to slightly stretch forward with ears up.
            www.shawneeacres.net

            Comment


            • #7
              There was a fabulous thread about this on the breeding forum, last fall, I think. Reg Corkum, a pro photographer, kindly gave everyone a lot of good advice, but I'm not sure what to search for to find the thread.
              Family Partners Welsh Ponies - Home of Section B Welsh stallion *Wedderlie Mardi Gras LOM/AOE http://www.welshponies.com
              Click here to buy: A Guide To In Hand Showing of Your Welsh Pony

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Thanks golden pony, I think this is the thread:
                What makes a good conformation photo?

                It does have some great stuff.

                Unfortunately, a lot of the example photo links are out of date, but browsing at http://pamnorton.com or http://regcorkumlive.blogspot.com can't be a bad idea before you go take pictures, and I assume those links are more 'robust'

                I'm trying to summarize the tips found in the 6 pages of that thread, and I'll post back later.

                I'd still like to see some thread go in the reference section for easy access.

                If there are other threads with lots of goodies, let me know.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think the best conformation photos are taken of thoroughbred stallions. A recent photo that I like very much is here.

                  The stallion is very well turned out, the halter fits properly and is situated correctly. The mane lays flat on the opposite side. This may take gel or tape to accomplish.
                  He is standing so that all 4 legs can be seen and he is standing square.
                  He is not leaning forward, which is very typical in a conformation photo.
                  He is alert and looking forward - although the face may be "cute", a turned head distorts the neck and makes it appear short.
                  The light his the subject almost perpendicular so that highlights and lowlights are visible. Proper time of day is crucial for lighting. Mid-day is terrible, as the light is from above. Too cloudy, and the subject will be very flat.
                  The background is far enough away that is is not distracting.

                  There is an online database of thoroughbred stallions with lots of examples (good and bad) at www.stallionregister.com. The more you look, the more you can tell what the problems are.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I know it may be a lot to ask but...

                    In my perfect world, I want a set of three pics...side, front, and back.

                    And really, I don't care about turnout (within reason of course...if it is a gray and I think it is a brown horse then we have a problem). I can look through dirt.

                    But I am not talking for ads or publication. I am just looking for a picture so that I can tell basic conf.
                    There are stars in the Southern sky and if ever you decide you should go there is a taste of time sweetened honey.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      About the TB stallion confo shots -

                      Tony Leonard is one of the best stallion photogs out there - check out the stallionregister.com for oodles of his pics. He actually duct tapes the mane down on the opposite side, so no flyaway hairs spoil the line of the neck.


                      Also, as was noted - stand opposite the hip to take the best proportioned pics. Start with a squeaky clean horse, as clean as you can get it, for best pics.

                      Sometimes (if you know the horse won't roll) turning them out 10-15 minutes, or lunging them 10 - 15 minutes or so lets their muscles swell up and you get better musculature in your photo and a rounder horse.
                      Jessi Pizzurro ~~ Pennyroyal Stables
                      Racehorses, OTTBs ~~ 330 383 1281
                      Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway. -- John Wayne

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Eyes, I disagree on this one.

                        While I don't necessarily expect people to tape down manes just to get a shot to post on COTH, I really dislike the threads that start "look at my ____" and the picture is A) a terrible snapshot not taken with conformation in mid at all, or B) a "let's get a confo shot" version of a terrible snapshot.

                        I hate them for 2 reasons really. First, if you expect others to take time to look and provide free critiques, take some time to get a decent photo, and second, I while you might be able to look through dirt (say, if you are considering a purchase and you're checking out that diamond in the rough), you will never give as good a critique if you have to start with "well, ignoring _______."

                        I think many of the guidelines given here, some by pros can be applied with not much (if any) extra effort.

                        What I'm kind of looking for in a reference thread is a way to say, "Hey, go read this thread, take another picture, and get back to us." on those threads I currently tend to ignore when the pictures are really bad. (if they didn't care why should anyone else?)

                        Does anyone know of horses posted "in the rough" and reposted "all spiffed up"? It would be interesting to compare the responses.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I don't think we disagree that much. If someone is asking coth to look at pictures for conf and they want to get the best opinions then yes, take the picture with that in mind and attempt to get a good picture.

                          My repsonse was really in response to the idea that to get a good confimation pic the horse needs to be groomed to the nines. That is just silly. Honestly, I can tell a horses conf with a scruffy mane and a unclipped nose just as well as I can with braids and baby powder on its white.

                          I would be very interested in a cleaned up vs pasture pulled up conf test as long as the horses where set up correctly and pictures where taken in reasonably similar lighting and position.

                          Originally posted by asanders View Post
                          Eyes, I disagree on this one.

                          While I don't necessarily expect people to tape down manes just to get a shot to post on COTH, I really dislike the threads that start "look at my ____" and the picture is A) a terrible snapshot not taken with conformation in mid at all, or B) a "let's get a confo shot" version of a terrible snapshot.

                          I hate them for 2 reasons really. First, if you expect others to take time to look and provide free critiques, take some time to get a decent photo, and second, I while you might be able to look through dirt (say, if you are considering a purchase and you're checking out that diamond in the rough), you will never give as good a critique if you have to start with "well, ignoring _______."

                          I think many of the guidelines given here, some by pros can be applied with not much (if any) extra effort.

                          What I'm kind of looking for in a reference thread is a way to say, "Hey, go read this thread, take another picture, and get back to us." on those threads I currently tend to ignore when the pictures are really bad. (if they didn't care why should anyone else?)

                          Does anyone know of horses posted "in the rough" and reposted "all spiffed up"? It would be interesting to compare the responses.
                          There are stars in the Southern sky and if ever you decide you should go there is a taste of time sweetened honey.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Don't stand. Kneel. Horses look much better if you take the photo aiming straight at elbow height. This works both for still shots and action (on-the-flat) shots.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I think that you can get a very good conformation shot standing across from their shoulder and standing.

                              Here are 2 examples (scroll down for the pics):
                              http://cherryblossomfarm.net/ConsulMare.html
                              http://cherryblossomfarm.net/quest.html

                              I think Phil Keller (who took those) has been doing an excellent job.
                              Cherry Blossom Farm - Show & Field Hunters, Side Saddles

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                I am a pro photographer. Aside from a clean horse, which is really the owner's responsibility, here are the things that I think about for conformation pics:

                                1. Time of day - Late afternoon is best
                                Late afternoon sun evenly lights the horse and its muscles. Really what I mean by late afternoon sun is that its perpendicular to the horse's body. Pictures taken with the sun overhead will often have weird shadows, not to mention its very difficult to actually see muscle definition on dark horses. The golden sunlight that happens in the afternoon also has a very soft effect that really looks fabulous on the horse and on scenic backdrops.

                                2. Location. Location. Location.
                                If you look at the conformation pictures that you really like, notice that they all have relatively quiet backdrops. By quiet, I mean they are fairly solid due to grass or foliage (or a quiet combination of the two). You can use clean lines from fencing or buildings, but typically, you want a nice quiet backdrop that doesn't distract your eye from the horse, but at the same time lets you see the entire horse.

                                3. Distance & Position from the Horse
                                This is REALLY important and ultimately determines how the horse looks in the final product. Someone above mentioned standing further back and using a telephoto lens. YES! Wide angle lenses (which you would have to use if you stand close to the horse) will distort the horse and make his/her legs and neck look shorter than they really are. A great portrait focal length is about 80-90mm. This will force you to back up to get the entire horse and surroundings in the shot. In addition, the height of the camera from the ground should be about 1/2 way between the bottom of the belly (elbow) and the wither. This creates a more realistic view of what the horse looks like. Camera too high and the horse looks short and squatty. Camera too low and the horse's legs look disproportionately long. Finally, where along their body do I stand? Usually across from the shoulder. Sometimes slightly in front. The 3/4 view (by standing slightly in front) can be nice. But the standard would be perpendicular to the horse's shoulder.

                                4. Horse's Stance
                                Since I primarily shoot sport horses, I'm looking for the open stance, where I can see all four legs. The trick is to not stretch the horse out to do it. Its actually harder than you think to get a really good open stance. I find that it really boils down to how much handling/training on the ground the ground the horse has. If the owner has worked with the horse to train them to stand this way for (for example, if they show in hand), it is much easier to get the correct stance and shot. I also shoot a variety of head/neck positions, because you never know which one the owner is going to like. Plus, sometimes a young horse may be marketed to both dressage and hunters. The hunters tend to want a little longer, lower looking neck. The dressage market wants to see the neck a little more upright.

                                Anyhow, hopefully those thoughts help you all in determining how, when and where to take conformation pictures of your horse.
                                www.LatkaPhoto.com

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Shoot from the center of the barrel. Photos take further forward or back distort the horse. A photo taken off the shoulder will make the shoulder look larger than life, and the butt look scrawny. Photos taken from the hip make the hip look huge, and no front end.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    My experience has been that standing at the barrel creates an abnormally long looking neck. The rear of the shoulder is about 1/2 way between the nose and the dock. In my experience, standing there creates the most realistic representation of the horse in real life.
                                    www.LatkaPhoto.com

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Hello All!!
                                      I've JUST joined Chronicle Forums, and this is my Very FIRST Post!!!
                                      And I just wanted to share with all of you that the following from Paddys Mom is WHY I Joined!!!

                                      Originally posted by Paddys Mom View Post
                                      I have been horse shopping and I have a collection of possibly the worst sale photos ever. However, I am silly enough to call on them anyway and ask for more pictures. They send me more of the same. I'd post them, but I am not that mean.
                                      Ohhhhhh MY Gawwwwwwwd!!!
                                      This is EXACTLY Where I Am!!!
                                      In fact, I stumbled across this forum while searching for some sort of Very Simple-To-The-Point "information" that I'd be able to direct people to, so THEY could better understand "How To" Photograph their horse .. so I can Finally get a decent Look!!!

                                      I'm Just Like You Paddy's Mom ... I'm silly enough that when I see a horse (despite the horrible picture)
                                      If it looks like it potentially "might be" what I'm looking for ... I enquire with questions, and request more pictures ... and get MORE horrible pictures!!!
                                      I request video clips so I can see the horse move ... and get back clips of horses being chased around a BIG muddy pasture ... and even IF the horse had been close enough to see ... I couldn't ... because of ALL the broken down farm machinery blocking my view!!!

                                      And it's not just one person ... I've been horse shopping for several months now, and I can't count the bad photos and vid clips I've waded through.
                                      Sometimes just throwing in the towel on what Might Be a Good Horse, simply because I got tired of trying to actually See It!!!

                                      Arrrhhhhgggggggg!!!! .... *sobs* ... It's Soooooo Frustrating!!!

                                      *laughing* ... thanks all, for allowing me a bit-o space to rant

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by shawneeAcres View Post
                                        I try to take a side view, standing opposite the horses HIP.
                                        Is that breed specific?

                                        I am used to seeing horse photos taken at the shoulder. Are QH and related breeds taken at the hip to emphasize the rump?

                                        Comment

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