How To Take a Good Sale Horse Photo

How To Take a Good Sale Horse Photo

The No Excuses Guide To Taking a Great Horse Photo

by Claire Buchanan  //   @hellofromclaire

Snapping a great sale horse photo can be tough and for good reason. Pretty sells and your photo is the eye candy that captures a buyer’s attention. Follow our 5-step process for transforming any horse from pasture pet to crush-worthy.

Before & After

Our model for this photoshoot was a 3 year old bay filly. Before her photoshoot she had been turned out to pasture. She is not a fancy show horse and doesn’t have perfect conformation. Our quick bath and a little brushing took her from dusty to dazzling in less than an hour.

On mobile devices: tap either side of image to see comparison

  • Before-Bad Photo vs. Good Photo
    After-Bad Photo vs. Good Photo
    BeforeBad Photo vs. Good PhotoAfter

What you need to succeed:

A Camera

You don’t even need a fancy one! All photos in this post were shot with an iPhone.

About 1 Hour

It took us about 1 hour to get our final shot, including prep time. Plan to take photos when the light is best.

A Clean Horse

A bath and Show Sheen is ideal. A good brushing and a damp rag on the dustiest spots can also work well.

Another Person

Ask a friend to hold your horse. It will really help you out. Bribe them if you have to!

1. Plan for the best lighting

The best time to take photos is about 2-3 hours before sunset or after sunrise. The light is most flattering at these Golden Hour times of day.

Be sure to position your horse so the sun is shining on the whole side you’re photographing. This will help you avoid any harsh shadows, which cause weird effects on necks and legs.

An example of bad lighting combined with poor positioning. 

Bad horse photo

2. Pretty sells. End of story.

It doesn’t matter if you are the ranchiest, cowboyest, most buckaroo, backcountry, too old school for cool horse owner. Get a brush, a comb, and make your horse look nice. Think of it like taking a shower before a date. It really does matter. You’ll be happy with the extra Benjamins your brushing brings you. 🙂

On mobile devices: tap either side of image to see comparison

  • Before-Dusty vs. Clean
    After-Dusty vs. Clean
    BeforeDusty vs. CleanAfter

3. The trick to taking one good photo is to take LOTS of bad ones

You know what horses are super good at? Being horses. You know what they are bad at? Standing still with their ears forward, eyes open, neck level, and their feet perfectly positioned to show off their body.

Be prepared to take LOTS of photos in order to get a few good images. It can be frustrating and tedious, but totally worth it!

To get our final photo, we took about 40 photos. Of the 40, about 4 were worth considering and only 1 made the cut.

the whole camera roll of a sale horse photo shoot

4. Ideal positioning

Getting your horse into position is the most annoying part of taking horse photos. It is also the most important. Here are a few basic components for helping your horse look her best.

Consider the location

Before you start, choose a location that will show off your horse. Avoid busy or cluttered backgrounds; they take attention away from your horse. Especially avoid poles, panels, fencing, or any type of junk piles.

Make sure you are on level ground. Use the side of a barn, or similar blank space, when a nice view or open pasture are not available.

An example of a bad sale horse photo — uneven ground, poor lighting, and a busy background.

choosing a background

Ears & Eyes

A bright, alert expression is especially important. Ears perked forward and open eyes will make your horse look intelligent and willing. Use an extra person off camera to get your horse’s attention. You can see the difference the ears and eyes make in these four photos.

How to take a good sale horse photo
The ears and eyes help convey a sense of intelligence.


A natural neck position will help balance your horse and complement her top line. In the top example, the neck is too low. A low neck makes her look dopey and downhill. The middle example is too high, making her look scrawny and high-strung.

The last image is just right! It shows off her nice withers and conveys a calm attitude.

How to take a good sale horse photo
The top one is too low. The middle is too high. The bottom is just right!

Legs & Feet

Staggering the feet like the 4th image makes the hip and shoulders look best. Position the hind leg nearest the camera back towards the tail just a little bit. This will elongate the horse’s hip. The stifle will appear stronger and the whole hind end will look more muscular.

Avoid too much space between the front feet, as in the second example. It makes the horse look long and awkward. In the third example the legs are awkwardly hidden behind each other. Don’t do that either.

How to take a good sale horse photo
Leg positions to avoid (1-3). The 4th example is pretty ideal.

5. Edit your photo

Cropping your photo and adjusting the lighting will make your photo look professional and polished.

You don’t need photography experience to make a horse photo look extra awesome! It’s easy and you can do it on any smart phone or photo viewing program on your computer. Here’s how:

Before and After sale horse photo with iPhone

Editing on an iPhone

Select the Edit button in the top right hand side of any photograph on your iPhone. For other smart phone users, check this tutorial out.
editing sale horse pictures on iPhone
How to take a good sale horse photo

Crop & Straighten

Select the crop tool  and position your horse in the center. You can drag the corners of the bounding box to get the perfect crop.

Don’t cut off your horses ears or feet! Do crop out your friend’s hand, your shadow, your dog, or any other distracting elements.

Consider straightening the image so the horse’s back or background is level. To straighten, move your finger up or down over the number wheel to the right of the bounding box.

adjust lighting on horse photo

Brighten & Illuminate

Adjust lighting and saturation (color) to help brighten your image. In this example, I chose Light > Shadows to create a richer image. This simple change also made her shade of bay look more accurate.

Keep it simple when editing lighting and color. We recommend avoiding filters or extremes in shadows and highlights. The ideal photo is natural and beautiful.

All Together Now!

Here is the Before & After photo again with all our techniques implemented.

Good luck horse owners! May the photo be with you.

How to take a good sale horse photo
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August 13, 2016 / 1 Comment / by / in , ,

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