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How To Take Conformation Photos

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OOPS! Manes and I posted at about the same time. I'll delete my thread and just copy my comments in here!!

Thought I'd get this one started out.

Some general rules of thumb on photos for critique. Clearly the photo matters. I think everyone has taken a picture of their horse(s) at some point in their lives and then went "OMG, my horse is NOT that awful looking".

A properly posed and prepared shot can make a BIG difference in how a horse is viewed.

A full critique would need at least 3 photos, side, front, rear. If you can only provide one, then the side shot is the one to go with.

-Clean your horse. A dirty horse can magically gain conformation flaws.

-Stand your horse on LEVEL ground. Standing a horse on a hill will make it almost impossible for people to tell what is really going on.

-Don't stand your horse in front of trash, other horses, or anything unsafe. Everyone will comment on your unsafe fencing instead of your horse. Avoid the extra commentary by paying attention to your back ground.

-Stand your horse up relatively square. Doesn't need to be perfectly square, but a picture of your horse grazing will not be a good photo to use.

I'll try to find a couple of pics to show what I'd think of as 'acceptable' vs. a 'bad' photo to post as a critique. Mrs had a good one of her horse standing downhill that shows a good example of what uneven surface can do to a horses conformation.


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Here are 3 pictures of the same horse. Man, hard to find 3 shots from the same side with similar sizes to do a compare against. I usually delete my really bad pics. LOL. Kept this really bad pic because there was an injury involved that I wanted to keep track of.

Bonus point for anyone who can point out what they think the injury may be from this photo... lol.

I think these 3 photos represent Bad, OK, and Acceptable conformation shots:

Picture 1 - BAD

Head down, legs akimbo, shadows, lots of back ground distraction, scruffy, ungroomed.


Picture 2 - OK

Horse has some tack on, which can mess up the line. Wraps on legs, distracting. Handler is in the shot, distracting.


Picture 3 - Acceptable


I don't have any that I would deem as "GOOD" confo shots, but hopefully the three examples above show how different the same horse can look in different pictures.

Edited by DawnC

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My tips:

*I prefer an "open" stance to square. I like to see ALL FOUR legs, with the legs closest to the camera farther apart, and the ones on the other side closer together.

*Always take the photo with the sun behind the photographer. Avoid taking photos around noon- the sun will be directly overhead, creating deep shadows which make it hard to see detail.

* The photographer should err on the side of being too far from the horse. Standing too close reduces the room for error- if you are standing at a slight angle, or too close to one end or the other of the horse, you'll get a somewhat skewed photo

* the photographer should not take the photo from a regular standing position. Crouching or slightly bending the knees helps. The camera should be pointed directly at a point in about the middle of the horse's barrel. If the photographer is standing up, the camera is actually pointed DOWN at most of the horse, and the result is the picture will make the horse look short legged.

* Take several pictures from several different places. Like, stand closer to the butt of the horse and take three. Then step closer to the middle of the horse and take three more. Then step closer to the head and take three more. This will help control for perspective issues and you can choose the photo that represents the horse best.

* Clean tack and uncluttered background helps. Be very careful that the ground the horse is on is level AND the ground the photographer is standing on is also level.

* Try whenever possible to stand the horse on concrete or clean ground- grass obscures the feet, which are probably the most important structure a horse has.


To show what I mean by open stance, here's a link that shows a pretty much perfect conformation shot:

Stallion Register page

Edited by goldentoes

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Excellent Article!

Someone correct me if i'm wrong but i was always told to stand back about 20 feet or more from the horse and zoom in for the shot. It reduces foreshortening in the photo.



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Megs picture is a good example. You want to be able to see all four legs. The only thing I would change about that particular stance would be to have the weight shifted a bit more to the back. You want the cannon bone closest to you to be straight up and down.

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