Because we're not all as natural at posing as our horses
Let’s face it, when you invest in a proper photo session, you want to enjoy looking at the results. But if you are a bit like me, you are not entirely comfortable in front of the camera. My family actually makes fun of me because I apparently always do the same: exagerated head tilt and fake smile. It never looks remotely flattering and yet I just unconsciously keep doing it.
Luckily, this wont' happen to you during a photo shoot with me. Because I will be there to guide you. But don’t worry, I won’t be hovering and constantly nitpicking. I am a huge fan of natural photos and I want you to just be you. But, when appropriate, I will give a few small pointers.
The key to natural photos is … feeling relaxed. You are probably thinking that is pretty obvious, right? And it is. What isn’t obvious is actually being relaxed. Unless you really love being in front of the camera. But I’m quite sure there’s only a handful of those among us.
So let’s take a look at how to look good in your pictures.
First, how to relax during a photo shoot?
I write a bit more about it in this blog post but I’ll give you a quick recap.
A good night’s rest is essential. When we’re tired, most of us get a little irritable or at least a bit less motivated. Your horse will feel this and act accordingly.
Another one is to stay hydrated. So feel free to bring a bottle of your favorite beverage to the shoot. Make sure to bring water too, though 😉.
When choosing your outfit for the shoot, make sure to chose items you feel comfortable in. Ok, maybe not those worn pants and muck boots, but your Sunday favorites.
And last but equally important: your breathing. The blog post I mention above has a link to some great exercises that will keep you relaxed.
Don’t forget that you and I both have prepared this shoot very well. We know what we want and how to get it.
That being said, you might still feel a bit awkward in the beginning. Let me just say that I pride myself on offering a non-judgemental environment. You do you, and that is perfect.
Related to that, I’d like to point out that fake smiles are just that. They don’t reach your eyes and that does show in pictures (just remember those school photos).
The solution? Let’s have some real fun! And say byebye to those nerves!
Second, how to look your best in the pictures?
Tips for posing your body
Shift your weight When posing with your weight evenly shifted, it will hardly ever look flattering. You can solve this by putting the majority of your weight on your back leg. This creates a curve in your body that is more pleasing to the eye. But keep #2 in mind.
Lean forward from the waist Leaning slightly forward makes your pose just a bit less harsh, especially in combination with #1. It also helps with the placement of your chin, as we will see later in ‘Tips for posing your face’.
Create distance between your torso & your arm By keeping your arms close to your body, they will appear bulkier than they actually are. It is natural to do this but it doesn’t work well in photos. Instead, just create a little space between your arms and body by putting your hands on your hip, upper thigh, pocket, … . And voilà, it suddenly looks much less voluminous.
Don't face the camera straight on Oldie but goodie! The shoulders are the broadest part of your body and by not facing the camera head on but rather turning them slightly, the entire pose becomes much more flattering. And also much less awkward.
Stand tall Because slouching is never good. Imagine a string through the top of your head that pulls you up. Taking a very deep breath will work too. But don’t forget to keep the shoulders down and back. Doing some shoulder rolls can help with this.
Don't be afraid to move When you pose a lot, you might become a little stiff. This never looks good in photos. When this is the case, feel free to move a little. Get back with the flow.
If it bends, bend it Another golden oldie. Straight and stiff never looks good. So whether you are standing or sitting, bend something: an arm, a leg, a slight head tilt. Whatever looks best (I’ll tell you what looks best through the viewfinder).
Tips for posing your face
Chin out Raise your hand if you like that double chin in the pictures. Uhuh, thought so. I have one in every photo. I don’t have one (that pronounced) in real life. It’s because, when in front of the camera, we have a tendency to pull back our head and tuck in that chin. So, instead of doing that, think ‘turtle’. I’m not kidding: imagine a turtle emerging from their shell. Just bring your your chin out and down a smidge.
Keep emotion in your eyes This is a pet peeve of mine. Few people have the gift of making a fake smile look genuine. I’d rather you don’t smile than give me one of those ‘all teeth, no feeling’ smiles. But here are a few tips I found to get it right:
think of something funny (and please do share with me)
think of your favorite person
envision what makes you utterly happy
imagine smiling back at your greatest love
and of course, you are with your horse, so just be genuinely happy in the moment.
Lips slightly parted for a relaxed jawline This is an obvious one, I'd say. Breathing in and out a few times will help with this. In fact, your entire face should be relaxed. No frowns, no clenched jaws, no squinting.
Don’t squint too much But don’t make big eyes either. As Gerry Ghionis says: a hint of a squint. If you’re not sure how to this, you can try to take a very deep, very relaxed breath. It will naturally make your eyes a bit smaller. Do try this in front of the mirror!
Third, let's look what adding a horse into the mix does.
There are a few points from above that will be easier when posing with a horse. Most importantly: the genuine smile 😉. Nice poses to go with this are laughing at your horse’s nose, looking away from the camera or looking at the camera. Although, let's nog forget that photos with a serious face can be beautiful too, as long as you keep your face relaxed and your lips slightly parted. Also the fact that you can easily create distance between your torso and your arms by touching your horse. And it immediately shows that connection very beautifully. For example, stand at a 45 degree angle towards your horse, lean on your back leg, one hand on their shoulder, the lead rope/reins held loosely in the other. Always remember to keep your fingers relaxed. Even when your horse is not cooperating.
Other ways to create connection with your hands is to pretend to give them a treat, lightly petting them (on the nose), kissing their nose while lightly holding their head, holding both your hands over their nose while both looking at the camera. And so many more.
Always give the impression of holding the lead rope/reins very loosely.
You can make a simple loop. Or you can hold them in on place, letting the rest hang. Or you can also put them up and around your horse’s neck so that you don’t have to hold on to them.
But don’t bunch them up, always give a relaxed impression with fingers and arm and keep it simple so that it does not draw the attention away from you and your horse.
I hope this helped!