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  • Caroline Nijs

Prep checklist for an epic equine photo shoot

So you decided you really want to book that photo session with your horse. You won’t regret it!

But how do you actually prepare for that? What are the things you need to think about? And what decisions can you leave to your photographer?

I'm sure every photographer has his own way of working. But this is how you can prepare for a relaxed equine photo session with me.


Ways to prepare yourself


When you have booked with me, you will have chosen either the Taster Session or the Signature Session. For the Taster Session, you will have to choose only one outfit. In the Signature, we have time for up to 3 outfit changes. The preparation for both is the same, only slightly less elaborate for the outfit part of Taster Session.


First, the concept of the photo session

The concept of your photo session is what you want to depict with your images, the theme. This is where it all starts.

Do you want to emphasize that the both of you are really into competition (English/western

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show clothes)? Or do you want to document the fun times you have with your best friend (casual clothes)? Or, maybe you want to go all glamorous (black tie, themed clothing, …).

You can do the prework by making a mood board/inspiration wall. This will help me to see what you envision for our project. If you need a little help with that, I’m always willing to help you get started on it.


The concept leads to the outfit


While your were thinking of the concept, you probably had an outfit, or several, in mind.

There are a few options here but as I said, it will all depend on the concept of our project.

To begin with, there’s the everyday casual style. No, that does not mean your mucking clothes and filthy boots. Unless you’re doing a storytelling-branding shoot for your horse barn, this is not a good idea.

We’re talking comfortable Ariat sweaters, floaty tops, t-shirts, … combined with your favorite jeans and boots. Or a day to day dress with cowboy boots or sandals.

Next, there’s the casual-smart option. This is just a tiny step up from the casual style but it makes a difference. An Asmar sweater or shirt with dress pants, finished with tall boots or fashionable ankle boots. Also casual-smart are you best breeches and riding top with riding boots

The third option is the smart style. Wear a shirt with stylish jacket, a beautiful scarf or poncho.

For those of you who like to add a bit edgy in your fashion choices, this is the time to shine.

Or you can wear your very best competition gear. I’m talking deluxe show shirt with stock tie and pin, immaculate show breeches, and the unbeatable tailcoat!

Fourth is the Western style. This typically consists of fancy cowboy boots, western style jeans with lots of sparkles, a denim or plaid shirt. And, not to forget, the buckle belt!

And last but definitely not least: the glamorous style. This is where you can give your inner diva free rein. If you have a fabulous ball gown, a prom dress, a holiday outfit, your wedding dress, a fancy suit, or no suit! Nothing is to much for this concept, absolutely nothing!

But, an outfit is not only the actual clothing pieces. The accessories are just as important! Just a few remarks here. Make sure they match the concept style you choose. And beware of too much bling, it might look great in real life, it will not in the images. The reflection will ruin them.

A few fashion dos & dont’s to guide you:

  • DO: think color, but not too much and definitely solid colors. Preferably a combination of muted colors & soft fabrics

  • DON’T: bright colors & logos

  • DO: clean hair & nails. Go ahead and use a hair and make up artist if that is your thing

  • DON’T: heavy make up; unless your concept is ‘glamorous’, go for the natural make up look

  • DO: clean your footwear

You can also keep your location in mind when choosing an outfit. For a boring barn, I would go for a splash of color. For a session on the beach, again, go for a bold color to stand out.

In the field however, it is best to keep it simple and elegant but not something that will blend in either.

I’m looking forward to your ideas!!


What with your hair and make up?


This is a very personal decision. I, for one, would have to choose for a hair and make up artist because I need a YouTube video to apply lipstick. If you are an expert, then by all means, do it yourself!

Of course, you could also choose to have an all-in experience and have it all done for you. Especially if you want a glamorous shoot, this would be a nice way to add to the experience. After all, we all deserve a little pampering now and then. And it can definitely be a confidence booster!

But at all times, keep in mind that less is more. And make sure the color palette coordinates with yours and your horse’s outfit.

Here’s a fun quiz.


Whip out those breathing exercises and relax


Before the session, make sure to rest and hydrate. If you’re tired or not feeling well, you horse will pick up on that and you both will end up not enjoying the session. So make sure to refrain from partying the day before and come prepared with a bottle of your favorite beverage.

Keep in mind that we have properly prepared this photo session. I am an experienced equine photographer: I know how to do a photoshoot AND I know how to handle horses. If you’re curious about the latter, check out my story here.

Think about the above whenever those pesky nerves start stirring again. And then do this exercise . If you’re having a bout of it during the shoot, don’t worry, I will give you all the time and guidance to settle down again.

Those picture-fake-smiles tend to tire our face muscles. So here is quick tip for a genuine smile: think about something funny/sweet/… your horse did. Make sure to tell me the story too, I like to hear that and we can laugh together.

And remember at any time: you just do you!

It’s how you are the most beautiful. Let me just capture that.


You're all prepared, now it's time for your horse


Just like we looked at every detail of the photo session concept and prepared for it for you, we need to do this exercise for your horse.

Let’s dive into it!


Exercise for the right mindset


In the days before the photo session, take your horse for walks around the shoot location, make sure they get used to everything, give them time to explore the surroundings. This will reduce the chances of spooking considerably.

The day before the shoot, make sure to ride your horse intensively. And the day of the shoot, factor in some time to lunge them properly. And if you can, bring a friend to the shoot. They can quickly lunge them during the shoot to bring back their mind. Also, they can keep your horse busy while you are changing outfits, or just help with keeping those ears forward.


Tack cleaning, your all time favorite


This is however an absolute must. Clean every single part of the saddle (if using) and the bridle or halter. Yes, the bit too. Remove all that icky dried spit.

Your leather tack should be polished and anything fabric should be freshly washed. You can

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do the latter by throwing it in the washer. Put it in a tightly shut (old) pillowcase to protect the inside of your washer. You can find a more elaborate article on this here.


Grooming and bathing till you drop


Start with the basics, the day before the shoot: brush your horse thoroughly! And I mean thoroughly! Everywhere the dirt can get. And if your horse is anything like mine, that literally means everywhere. There’s a brush for everything so you have absolutely no excuse.

Now brush again.


After the brushing marathon, it’s time for the bathing disaster. Make sure you have all the products you need. This is the ideal excuse to buy some fancy products!

Don’t forget about the spot remover or the whitening shampoo.

The day of the shoot, you should brush again, to get the hay and bedding out of their coat. This will not be as time consuming as the day before though.

Don’t forget the foundation of everything: your horse’s feet. No feet, no horse, right!?

Clean them out real properly, with a hoof pick and a brush.

You can add some polish to make them shine, if you want. Just make sure to let it dry long enough to avoid dirt sticking into it. And don’t use too much, too shiny.


You’re almost there! Now it’s time for the finishing touches. Details are important so don’t forget to clean your horse’s eyes and nose, spray some show sheen and do a final wipe down with a clean cloth.

The only thing left to do, is make sure your horse won’t roll now. Good luck!



You are now ready for your shoot. Let's make some epic images!!



Head over to my contact page to leave me a message or ask any question you have. Upon leaving your email, I will send you a welcome sequence with all you need to know about horse photography.

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