Low-key equine portraits

aka “Black Background Photos”

How we create them

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the location

Low-key portraits are set up in the entrance of either a barn or interior arena with all interior lights turned off. The horse is positioned by the building’s entrance.

If the location calls for it, and the horse is comfortable with it, a black backdrop may be set up to minimize background distractions.

the light

The majority of the “black background” effect is achieved in-camera. The horse is positioned against the dim interior and kept away from direct sunlight. It is instead lit by ambient light that softly highlights the horse’s features.

If the horse is comfortable, a flash may be used for rim lighting.

 
Black background equine photographer, Ontario

preparation

FLOOR: To help minimize editing time and to help the photos look as clean as possible, please ensure the shoot area is clean and tidy prior to the session. Sweep the barn aisle, remove clutter and try to avoid puddles or spills.

HORSE: To prepare the horse, ensure it is freshly bathed, dry, brushed and shiny. Images look best with a braided or well-groomed mane and tail. Prepare the horse as if it were attending a show.

  • Use baby oil to add shine to nostrils and around eyes.

  • Use baby powder to whiten markings.

  • Use hoof polish or oil to add shine to hooves.

TACK: Your images look best with clean, shiny tack. Ensure any tact that will be photographed is freshly oiled, polished and maintained. Running a rag & oil quickly over leather works wonders.

execution

It is best to have at least one other person helping you during the portrait session.

One person should be comfortable adjusting the horse’s stance and encouraging the horse to stand still.

The other person should be someone who can get the horse’s attention using treats, a mirror, or playing a horse noise app from a phone.

 
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Expert editing

Once our session is complete, I will sort through the images to select those with the most flattering positioning, best composition and most detail. I will then edit each meticulously to remove blemishes, enhance details, fully darken the background and ensure the horse’s personality shines though.

There is a high level of artistry in the creation of these portraits. Each image receives the dedication it deserves.

Holi

Add a splash of colour to your portraits! At the end of the session, we can break out the holi powder and move your horse around! The holi I use is non-toxic. It is manufactured in the USA, and all holi ingredients are FD&C and D&C approved. Beware, it is a little messy (but totally worth it, in my opinion)! Holi is best used with horses that can take a jump at liberty, or move about on cue. We need a bit of extra space and a flash to really make holi pop.