A photo can make or break the sale of a horse. Here are some insider tips on how to shoot a striking image.

When it comes to selling horses online or in advertisements, a good photo can entice buyers, while a bad shot can make them keep scrolling or turn the page. That’s why Melanie Lowrance takes her time shooting photos of sale horses, and has a specific strategy to make them look good.

Lowrance and her husband, John, operate Lowrance Horses in Burkburnett, Texas. What started as a way to pay her way through nursing school has turned into a thriving business that deals in well-bred performance horses. The Lowrances typically buy and sell several hundred horses every year, and use Facebook as their primary marketing tool. Lowrance’s wow-worthy photos attract plenty of attention and a steady stream of buyers.

“Our job is to make them look the best they can,” she says. “Pictures that have a wow factor to them sell your horse.”

taking horse photo
Ask for help when capturing a sales photo. One person can handle the horse while the other “catches ears.” Photo by Christine Hamilton

She adds that having a couple of people available to assist when she’s photographing horses can make a big difference. One can hold the horse while the other handles last-minute grooming and then attracts the horse’s attention to get its ears forward, sometimes referred to as “catching ears.”

Lowrance starts by choosing a location that is open, such as a pasture, with nothing distracting in the background. Trucks, trailers, barns, fences and telephone poles can detract from the horse itself.

She also starts with a clean horse—one that’s been bathed, brushed and, if it’s a show horse, clipped. She also wants its feet trimmed or shod.

Next comes placement of the horse’s feet. Having the feet even with each other can give the appearance of a two-legged horse, and make the horse look unbalanced.

“The legs closest to me we set straight up under the horse. I want his hock straight under his hip,” she says. “On the side away from us we create what we call distance. We’ll move the back leg up, and it makes the [closest] hip look better. We’ll move the front leg back. I see a lot of pictures where horses are leaning forward, but I’ll have one set back a little bit [by putting weight on its hindquarters]. It looks a lot better.”

Lowrance then kneels slightly behind the horse’s shoulder, but angled slightly toward its hip.

“I’m never behind him and never at his shoulder. And shooting from the front is the worst,” she says. “You’re just making the horse’s hip look smaller.”

square horse pose photo
Avoid posing the horse’s feet in a squared position, with the hooves in line with each other. It hides the off-side legs and isn’t as flattering as a staggering the legs. Photo by Christine Hamilton

Conversely, taking a photo from the back—which many people do thinking it will enhance the horse’s hip—can distort the horse’s conformation.

She points out that the goal isn’t to make the horse look different than it actually is, which could backfire if a customer comes to see the horse, but to bring out its best points.

And although she often uses a digital camera, Lowrance says that even iPhone photos can work if the horses are set up properly.

Lowrance says one profile shot is usually sufficient, but she will provide a few more if a prospective buyer asks. But, she says, “one good one does way more than 20 average ones.”

Find more on the do’s and don’ts of selling a horse in the September 2018 issue of Western Horseman.

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