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Equine Photographers, help?

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Thread started 23 Jul 2011 (Saturday) 20:26   
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aponi06
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I've been asked by a few friends who show in an indoor ring but have no idea how to get those good pictures with flash.

I went to a friends lesson while she was in the door and had to take b&w photos because I couldn't get the lighting right. I've messed with exposure setting but doesn't help. I own the Rebel T1i.

Post #1, Jul 23, 2011 20:26:55


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MT59
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Something to try if you can get another test session during a lesson before the show:

Set your camera to Av mode, put on the 70-300mm lens. I'm assuming it's probably a f/4-5.6 lens. With the lens pulled all the way in (at 70mm), set your aperture value on the camera at f/4. The camera will adjust the aperture to the lens.

Set ISO to, oh, 1600. Pictures will be a bit grainy, most likely. Might be able to clean that up in post-processing. Shoot in RAW mode so you can lighten up dark pictures. There's still a good chance that shutter speeds may be too low, depending on the type of event and the ambient lighting inside the arena.

All this is assuming you have only the on-camera flash. We're trying to leave it turned off, so keep it pushed down. It won't automatically pop up in Av mode.

If there are any exterior windows in the arena and the sun happens to be filtering in and lighting up part of the area, see if you can shoot when the horses and riders enter that additional light.

So many variables. Pros are usually using pro cameras (better high-ISO capabilities) and f/2.8 (or better) lenses, possibly in combination with a couple of strobes mounted just outside the ring.

Given your equipment, I'd say just play around with the above and see if it helps. If you have a monopod, that would be a good bet, too. Especially if your lens doesn't have IS.

BTW, if this is an organized event, the organizers may have already enlisted the services of an official photographer. Be sure you aren't interfering with their business.

Post #2, Jul 27, 2011 00:01:17


5D2, 7D, 40D (all gripped), 24-105 f/4L, 70-200 f/2.8L IS Mk I, 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM, Sigma 8-16mm, Sigma 70-300mm

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aponi06
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Thanks for the tip!

Post #3, Jul 27, 2011 09:17:34


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acroberts
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I have shot indoor horse shows, but was told not to use flash, especially indoors, as it can spook horses who are not used to flash photography.

I ended up shooting with my Xti in shutter mode at 1/250th or faster (to stop the action) at ISO800 with an 85mm f/1.8.

You will find the cameras setting itself up to shoot pretty wide open in a dark barn with this kind of approach, so keep in mind that you will lose some depth-of-focus if taking head-on shots, so set your AF point to the rider's head.

Any option to spend a hundred bucks before the show and use your first show as a learning experience?

Grab a 50mm f/1.8 and shoot pictures as they pass by on the rail.

And you'll use the 50mm for all kinds of learning stuff down the road, so it is definitely not money lost...

Post #4, Jul 27, 2011 09:42:04


X100s | 50D | XTi | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 85mm f/1.8 | 50mm f/1.8

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aponi06
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I've been looking at the 50mm and didn't think of using it at horse shows.

Post #5, Jul 27, 2011 09:58:30


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matonanjin
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You realize that this is a hugely blue sky question and volumes could be written about it? To start off I'll ask you a couple questions. Is it at an actual show that you are going to be shooting at? You say "with flash". Do you have an off camera flash? Do you have permission from the show to use flash? Do you shoot in RAW? Are you familiar with the concept of "White Balance"?

To start with, yes, the 50mm 1.8 is a great lens on a cropped body for low light indoor shooting. The lenses that you have are not fast enough if you need to go to available light.

And also to start you may find my recent blog about my lighting system for shooting horse showsexternal link helpful. (Or just click my blog link below and go to most recent post.) You certainly don't need to go to this extravagant a system but there may be some helpful info. And this is not a shameless plug and I am not advertiser supported so I don't care about hits.

Answer these and we'll get back to you (hopefully) with some suggestions.

Post #6, Jul 27, 2011 10:30:39


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aponi06
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I have the on camera flash, I do not have permission to use flash (prefer not to), I have not tried shooting in RAW, and not familiar with the concept of white balance.

I usually go to shows where my friends are showing and get photos of them (get asked to tag a long).

Post #7, Jul 27, 2011 10:48:26


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Nomofica
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If you decide to use flash, use an off-camera flash. If you do not have permission, do not do it. Always shoot in RAW - don't convert to JPEG until you're completely finished. If you are not familiar with an elementary element such as white balance, I highly suggest picking up a photography book for beginners; it will teach you the barebones basics of photography from which you can grow from.

Best of luck.

Post #8, Jul 27, 2011 13:44:12


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matonanjin
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First off, I apologize for the delay in the response. I asked you to respond to my questions, which you did. But I have been busy and, frankly, this post skipped my mind. I just got back from a shoot for a gal that is taking her mustang to the Extreme Mustang Makeoverexternal link competition in Fort Worth in September and she needs a stall front poster. Fun shoot but it was about 95 degrees and 95% humidity. I'm beat and I will try and be coherent:o:rolleyes:.

MT59 wrote in post #12829486external link
Something to try if you can get another test session during a lesson before the show:

Set your camera to Av mode, put on the 70-300mm lens. I'm assuming it's probably a f/4-5.6 lens. With the lens pulled all the way in (at 70mm), set your aperture value on the camera at f/4. The camera will adjust the aperture to the lens.

Set ISO to, oh, 1600. Pictures will be a bit grainy, most likely. Might be able to clean that up in post-processing. Shoot in RAW mode so you can lighten up dark pictures. There's still a good chance that shutter speeds may be too low, depending on the type of event and the ambient lighting inside the arena.

I disagree with this. By setting your aperture at F/4 at the shortest zoom your camera will set your aperture at 5.6 when you zoom in. This will guaranty blurred images due to slow shutter speeds. I have yet to be in an indoor arena that I can shoot available light at ISO 1600 at F/5.6 and get an acceptable shutter speed.

Unfortunately, the lenses that you have do not lend themselves to indoor shooting. They're not "fast" enough. (see below.) Your camera has an "expansion" ISO setting of 3200. See your manual on how to do this. Use 3200. Your images will come out a little noisy but you are only doing this for friends. They will be acceptable. And if you shoot in RAW you will be able to apply some noise reduction. See below. Shoot in either TV mode or Manual. Set your shutter speed at 1/500 and then check your light. If you can not get an acceptable exposure go down to an absolute slowest speed of 1/400th.

Try and position yourself in the arena to where you don't have to zoom out to where your lens changes apertures.

MT59 wrote in post #12829486external link
So many variables. Pros are usually using pro cameras (better high-ISO capabilities) and f/2.8 (or better) lenses, possibly in combination with a couple of strobes mounted just outside the ring.

Given your equipment, I'd say just play around with the above and see if it helps. If you have a monopod, that would be a good bet, too. Especially if your lens doesn't have IS.

Unfortunately, shooting indoor shows requires fast, which means expensive, equipment. I almost always use an F/2.0 prime lens or rarely, an F/2.8 zoom. But if you want to do much shooting indoors look at a 50mm F/1.8 lens. It is fast enough for indoors, it's a good length for your Rebel and cheap! Like $100.

Don't worry about a monopod and don't worry about IS. You have to shoot at fast enough shutter speed to stop the horses' movement. Other wise you get blurry images. This fast of shutter speed eliminates camera/lens shake. This makes a monopod and IS unnecessary.

MT59 wrote in post #12829486external link
BTW, if this is an organized event, the organizers may have already enlisted the services of an official photographer. Be sure you aren't interfering with their business.

This is good advise. If you are acting like you are taking photos for hire it will make the official photographer nervous. Understandable considering the time and expense he/she has probably gone to to get the contract for the show. Just explain to him/her that you are shooting strictly for some friend and not offering your shots for sale.It's just a very professional gesture for you to do it and some day when you have the contract you will appreciate someone doing the same.

aponi06 wrote in post #12811147external link
I've been asked by a few friends who show in an indoor ring but have no idea how to get those good pictures with flash.

I went to a friends lesson while she was in the door and had to take b&w photos because I couldn't get the lighting right. I've messed with exposure setting but doesn't help. I own the Rebel T1i.

aponi06 wrote in post #12831485external link
I have the on camera flash, I do not have permission to use flash (prefer not to), I have not tried shooting in RAW, and not familiar with the concept of white balance.

I usually go to shows where my friends are showing and get photos of them (get asked to tag a long).


I'm, unfortunately, still not sure if you are wanting to shoot with flash or not. If you will clear that up and will try and offer a couple more comments.

For now, my immediate advise is that you go out and purchase "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson. Secondly, consider shooting in RAW and all the benefits this will provide you in processing your images. This is especially important in shooting indoor horse shows in crappy light. It will provide you a lot of latitude in post processing especially for exposure, noise reduction and white balance. There are all sorts of resources on the web on how to process RAW images.

If you don't have a RAW processor like Adobe Lightroom, the software that came with your camera, DPP, is a great one and free. The Canon Learning center has an excellent video tutorial on how to use it.

Lastly, go to some of the web resources on White Balance. This is an extremely important concept when shooting indoors under artificial lights.

HTH, and will try and offer a little more when you clear up about flash use.

Post #9, Jul 31, 2011 22:53:35


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acroberts
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matonanjin wrote in post #12831360external link
And also to start you may find my recent blog about my lighting system for shooting horse showsexternal link helpful.

Thanks for sharing your setup and the time that you put into this piece - great stuff!

Post #10, Aug 09, 2011 10:52:47


X100s | 50D | XTi | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 85mm f/1.8 | 50mm f/1.8

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matonanjin
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acroberts wrote in post #12830991external link
I have shot indoor horse shows, but was told not to use flash, especially indoors, as it can spook horses who are not used to flash photography.

I ended up shooting with my Xti in shutter mode at 1/250th or faster (to stop the action) at ISO800 with an 85mm f/1.8.

You will find the cameras setting itself up to shoot pretty wide open in a dark barn with this kind of approach, so keep in mind that you will lose some depth-of-focus if taking head-on shots, so set your AF point to the rider's head.

Any option to spend a hundred bucks before the show and use your first show as a learning experience?

Grab a 50mm f/1.8 and shoot pictures as they pass by on the rail.

And you'll use the 50mm for all kinds of learning stuff down the road, so it is definitely not money lost...

I rarely shoot an indoor show anymore without flash. But I shoot mostly western horses and there tends to be less paranoia about using flash with them. When I am told not to use flash by a show manager I am always tempted to point out all the parents with their dslr's along the rail!:rolleyes:

And you saw my system for flash. It is always way up in the stands and unlikely to spook a horse. However, I am the first to admit this subject of using flash at horse shows remains controversial even among us horse show photographers.

A minor point but I always focus on the horse's shoulder rather than the rider's head. It is larger and so you are less likely to lose it when the horse is running. And it is in the same plane of focus so if you get the shoulder you should get face in focus.

acroberts wrote in post #12903780external link
Thanks for sharing your setup and the time that you put into this piece - great stuff!

Thank you. Glad you found it interesting.

Post #11, Aug 09, 2011 11:28:49


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Mortz
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Equine Portrait Photographer West Yorkshire

Equine portrait photographer

aponi06 wrote in post #12811147external link
I've been asked by a few friends who show in an indoor ring but have no idea how to get those good pictures with flash.

I went to a friends lesson while she was in the door and had to take b&w photos because I couldn't get the lighting right. I've messed with exposure setting but doesn't help. I own the Rebel T1i.

I'll try keep this reply as clear and concise as possible and cover the areas in the problem above. The things I speak about in this post are from my personal experience as an equine photographer, and examples of my work are available at http://www.robertalexa​nderphotography.co.ukexternal link

Firstly, lets cover lighting. There are two ways in which you could light these as with any subject, natural light or flash. I notice that you mentioned flash in your problem. However, when photographing at a show I would suggest that using flash would not be suitable as it may cause the horses to spook/act up whilst showing and this of course would put some of the more nervous horses at an unfair advantage during the show and would affect the placings and cause all sorts of trouble. For me in a show situation natural light would be the only option as you need to be unobtrusive so as not to distract the competitors/judges/aud​ience etc. Using natural light in an indoor arena which can quite often be a little bit dark of course throw up certain issues when photographing on a camera with limited ISO capability as your shutter speed can be quite slow.
This however isn't such a problem as it may first seem, I have many shots taken on a 70-200mm lens where I have purposely set a slow shutter of 1/40th of second and the head of the horse has remained perfect sharp. These slow shutter speeds create a great sense of motion through the blur of the horses legs as well as the background blur. How you achieve this is by panning at the same speed as the horse when it is directly across from you. This principle of course doesn't work when the animal is heading away from you or towards you but when it is heading from left to right or right to left e.g down the side of the arena directly across from you. Using this slow shutter speed will of course result in some blurry images as the horse moves it head around in some of the gaits. However Some shots will convey this great sense of motion. I've even photographed horses at a shutter speed of 1/20th of a second in order to really convey a the speed and power of the animal. These slow shutters do get some stunning results but there will be a high failure rate too. Depending on what ISO your camera is capable of in order to get an acceptable image you may also be able to get a high enough shutter speed in order to freeze the motion, however panning with the horse will still be important in order to get sharp images. And of course remember to shoot off plenty of frames whilst the horses are in walk as these will be the ones that give you the most chance of sharp images due to the slower movements of the horses. The main thing is to practice panning your camera with moving subjects. Go out and practice with a slow shutter speed on anything that moves. Cars are an obvious choice.

Lastly it is possible to photograph horses using flash as you can see from my website, the most striking images are used creating off-camera flash. Using on camera flash wouldn't have the same effect as it wouldn't be as controllable as a very directional flash head is used so that it is just the horse that is picked out by the flash and not all the grass in front. Also a lot of time has to be taken with the animal in order to make sure that it is desensitized to the flashes and that it wont spook whilst trying to photograph it.

So to sum up, get out there and practice panning your camera with moving objects! keep the object in the center of the frame as you pan! Use slow shutter speeds on the objects your panning with, start with a higher shutter speed when you start out and once you start getting crisp and sharp images lower the shutter speeds gradually and see how slow you can shoot a passing car etc. It really is something that has to be practiced! Remember that noise from using higher ISO in order to get a faster shutter speed in order to freeze the horses motion can always be removed in the edit. The most important thing to your friend will be getting the shot! Also pose a few photographs of your friend and the horse together outside in the light after the event!

Good luck!

Post #12, Sep 26, 2011 11:04:58




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