Low-key equine portraits

aka “Black Background” photos

how we do them

Ontario Equine Photographer Jess Bell - Black Background session

the set up

These low-key portrait sessions are set up at the entrance to a darkened barn aisle or an indoor arena. We have the option to set up a black backdrop to further remove background distractions. We place the horse just inside the mouth of the building and away from direct sunlight. The horse is lit with soft ambient light to draw out the details of their form.

The light

Posing your horse is a fun and laid-back experience for everyone. No flash or scary equipment is necessary, which results in photos of a happy, relaxed animal.


The preparation

floor - To help minimize editing time and to help photos look as clean as possible, please ensure the shoot area is clean and tidy. Sweep the barn aisle, remove clutter such as buckets, hoses and blankets, and try to avoid puddles or spills prior to the shoot.

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


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

  • Use baby powder to whiten markings

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

tact - The final images you will receive are sharp and highly detailed, which means dirty or broken tack will be obvious. Ensure any tack to be photographed is freshly oiled, polished and maintained. Running a rag + oil over leather works wonders.

Detail 4

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