Getting Good Pictures
       By Bonnie Martin

Rawhide's Charcoal, my 7 yr. old Missouri Fox Trotter gelding. The photo was taken from a video that my son shot--that's really the easiest way to get a good still shot. If you don't like something about the photo, you can stop the action in a different spot. Isn't modern technology wonderful?
Have you ever wondered why that wonderful horse you have advertised hasnít sold even
after you sent photos or video to prospective buyers? You know he or she is a great horse.
Youíve seen him out in the pasture strutting his stuff. You know he handles well, has correct
conformation, good legs and feet, and a wonderful disposition. If itís a riding horse, you know
that he can and will do whatever is expected without fuss and in a stylish way.  In addition, he
positively gleams in the sunlight when he is clean. To top it off, you have him priced reasonably.

Why, then isnít the buyer jumping to get him? 

Well, it may not be the horseís fault. The problem may just lie in the photos or video you
are sending to represent this wonderful animal. Donít send something you feel a need ahead of
time to apologize for. Spend a little more time and effort to get quality samples of what you have
to sell. 

Start off with a groomed horse. No one really wants to see  nitty gritty wads of dirt,green
manure stains, tangled manes, and unkempt horses.  Bathe, or at least brush to a shine. Coat
conditioner will help tame the mane and tail. White markings should be really white so they will
show up.  If possible, photograph or video during the fall or late spring when coats look their
best, but especially on young stock which is growing and changing so fast, you might be taking
photos/video during their wooly stages. Granted, there may be lots of hair, but it should be clean
and neat. Clipping feathers on the fetlocks  makes the horseís legs look more refined. The head
shows up better and much prettier if the hair under the chin is trimmed and the jowl is defined. If
there has been a bridlepath cut, it needs to be reclipped so it is not standing up like a mohawk.
Next consider where to take the photos/video. Yes, youíre trying to sell the horse, not your farm, but the background can say a lot about your horseís care. Try to find a spot to shoot where there is not clutter or distracting items to compete for the viewerís attention. Especially in a video, you donít need to have the horse wandering around equipment, feeders, round bales, etc.

For photographs, try to find a contrasting background. A dark horse in front of a dark background is not going to show up very well, even with a color photo, whereas a grey would. In a photo, shoot lots of pictures. Most of them wonít turn out as well as you would hope. Get photos from the side with the horse standing on all four feet, looking alert. Get photos from both sides, from the front (donít be too close or it will look like a giant head) and from the back to show those straight legs. 

Getting the horse to buy into looking alert and not half asleep can be done by taking a trick from show photographers. They usually have something of interest that the horse will focus on. The point is not to scare them, but to get their attentionĖears up, neck somewhat arched. A big mirror, feedbag, milk carton with pebbles in it, an umbrella, anything that they arenít familiar with will do. This has the added advantage of getting them used to odd things. 

With video, there is the opportunity to show what the horse can do and how he does it. Even young ones can do things like stand for haltering, lead willingly, perhaps stand tied or load in a trailer. Donít forget to show those things as well as some of the animal moving out. Horses under saddle should be shown being caught, groomed, saddled, and ridden. Hopefully, you will have worked your horse enough in the weeks beforehand and warmed him up sufficiently to get
your best ride. If not, do it again the next day or the next. Donít send a tape saying that he is
really better than what the viewer will be seeing. Prove it.

If you have the equipment, take the time to do any video editing that might be needed  to
get rid of unattractive parts. Folks donít need to see the ground when you forgot to turn the
camera off and started walking, they donít really need to see the horse proving that his bodily
functions really work, or be made seasick in sections where the camera got wiggley. Cut those
out. This also gives you a copy of the video to keep and not have to do all over again if someone
else wants video before the first one, hopefully, is returned. (Be sure to label and put your address
on the video if you hope to get it back.)

Yes, this takes some time and effort, but the payoff will come when the prospective buyer
has a clear idea of your horse and knows what is being offered. Then itís just a matter of whether
the horse matchs the buyerís wants and needs. Without that good video or snapshot, the buyers
might not realize that you did have exactly what was being sought and move on to someone elseís
horses in their quest for the perfect horse for them. 

Bonnie Martin is an amateur at both  horses and photography, but she has played around with both for many years. After trying to both buy and sell horses, she put together these guidelines to help folks present their horses in the best light possible. This, in turn,  helps buyers be able to see what they might be buying so they will be able to make an informed judgement.