Have you ever looked at your horse standing tied, gleaming in the sun, and tried to snap a picture to capture how perfect they look only to find that in the picture they look like an actual donkey? Maybe that only happens to me!
I don’t know about you, but I really think it is both an art and a science to capture a flattering photo that represents your horse in the very best light.
There are a lot of behind-the-scenes elements that go into a successful photoshoot. I recently had the opportunity to interview Caballo Creative Co.’s, Spencer Tindel, a passionate horsewoman and professional photographer. She shared some incredible tips on how to prepare for a photoshoot so you can make the most of your experience and end up with some incredible images to market your horse.
You don’t want to miss these valuable tips!
Can you tell me a little about yourself, your background, and your connection to the horse industry?
“I was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana where I grew up immersed in horses and was an avid rider from a young age. My mom grew up rodeoing, so I did the same, participating in youth rodeo associations, queens contests, high school rodeo, and as many barrel races as we could attend. Many of these on a little grade paint who won me more 3D/4D titles than many horses with top breeding. Riding a small, opinionated paint horse with more heart than two horses, sure will teach you a lot at a young age! I rode many horses who taught me a lot, and I later purchased a great gelding named CU Sue aka Big John from Samantha Mauney towards the end of my high school career. He was a giant, but had been to the NFR as a backup mount a couple of times, and could suck up abarrel for his size. John was an amazing horse who taught me so much about having confidence and what it means to run a high-caliber horse.
In the fall of 2012, I started at Louisiana State University where I majored in Animal Science. Unfortunately, LSU did not have a rodeo team, so I had to put horses on hold for a few years. I took this time to broaden my knowledge in equine breeding, cattle management, and research. I graduated in May of 2016 and then began a Masters of Science degree at Texas A&M University in Animal Science as well.
I completed my degree in May of 2018, and after a very stressful first year in the “real” world, I decided I wanted to return to my passion for horses. I was very fortunate at the time to have a consulting job that allowed me to do a lot remotely, so I took this time to (very blindly) reach out to a local cutting horse trainer. Cutting had always been a sport that fascinated me because of not only the pure athleticism of the horses but also the silent horsemanship of the riders. I spent about a year soaking up as much as could from Constantine Caloudas and his program, which I will forever be grateful to him for. During this time, I also began dating my now fiance, who at the time operated a small but successful colt-starting business in Bryan, TX. I have gained so much knowledge and skill from Spencer (yes we have the same name) in regards to young horses and his program. He truly has a gift with them.
Over the past couple of years, we have grown this business to be what I would consider a fairly successful operation, focusing on starting performance-aimed two-year olds, sales/fitting, and training. Spencer primarily shows young horses in the reined cow horse and stock horse events, and I was able to return to riding and training a few futurity barrel horses, while also joining him in the cow-horse world. We still both compete in NRCHA and SHTX events, while attending events like the Pink Buckle with horses who have gone through our sale fitting program. I currently have a 2018 Blazin Jetolena gelding who I am very excited to begin futuritying later this year.
With all that in mind, I have always been heavily tethered to the horse industry, to say the least. I have had the privilege to work with and learn from some great people/programs, and I believe that there is always something more to learn, especially across-disciplines. One of my favorite quotes is something like, “If you find that you’re the smartest person in the room, you probably need to find a different room”. I try to convey that to my life and horses as best as I can, as so far, it has led me down quite the most fabulous, and unanticipated of paths.”
Has your main focus always been horse photography? Tell me a little background on your career so far.
“Ooo, I want to say yes but I don’t think I can. At least, it wasn’t intentional. I have been very fortunate to have parents who encouraged creativity from a very young age and would supply any supplies needed to nurture it. My mom will tell you that when they bought me my first camera, she was genuinely surprised at the photos I created. Not just your typical point-and-shoot type of photo, but I was playing with bokeh and composition before I even knew what those things were. Given there were many photos of horses as a result of these, but it was all for fun. I was shooting engagements, portfolios, and even had the offer to do a wedding before I graduated High School.
While in High School, I was also a member of our broadcasting team, so I was able to dabble in videography and learn a little bit of this side of the industry. This soon fostered a love for video as well, which I now have additionally carried into my business model.
I would say that I began “professionally” photographing horses over the past few years. At first, it was mainly due out of necessity for our colt starting business or for sale horses we may have come through the program. But once I shot my first black background photo of a horse, there was really no turning back. I had rekindled an old love for a skill that was once a hobby and wanted to turn it into something I could share with others. John Wayne once said that “true art is basic emotion”, and that is the motto I run my business by. Horses are emotive, artistic creatures on their own. If I can somehow use my lens to bring that to life for a client or for the world to see, then I’ve already accomplished what I set out to do. Over the past year, I have begun to offer horse and rider sessions in addition to my other services. This largely stemmed from seeing absolutely beautiful photos of someone with their horse, but simultaneously seeing little things that may be off to the untrained eye; like a horse not standing in a flattering manner, an ear not forward, or some disconnect between the handler and their horse. With my business, I wanted to prevent this by combining all of my services so that I could cater to practically any type of photo a client may desire; resting assured that they would receive a final product both they or their equine would approve of. “
What are 5 tips you can give to horse owners who are preparing for a photoshoot?
- “My first tip would be to clearly communicate with your photographer prior to the shoot with what type of photos you’re after, or any specific shots you want to see. Photographers are there to create for you, so don’t be afraid to talk with them about what you’d like to see! I always try to arrive at my shoots a little bit early even if we have previously discussed this, just to make sure everyone is happy the day of!”
- “I know it should go without saying, but make sure your horse is clean! It will save your photographer a lot of turn-around time when they do not have to edit out dirt spots or grass stains, getting your photos in your possession faster. The same should be said for your tack as well.”
- “If you are doing horse and rider photographs/action shots, dress in colors that compliment your horse’s color. We always want those eye-catching photos that pop, so if you have a palomino, for example, try to stay away from colors in the yellow/orange families. You should always feel open to asking your photographer for advice here, they will be happy to help!”
- “Make sure your halter (if you are using one) fits properly! If not, this will create a distracting final image or add great time to your photographer’s editing. Also, be sure to let your photographer know if you want a halter on in the photo or not ahead of time, they can cut a lot of time out during the shoot knowing this information.”
- “Be patient. Horses, as we all know, can be pretty unpredictable. Trust your photographer if they are taking some extra time to get a certain shot when the horse may be acting a little unruly. My goal is always to create a safe environment for the horse, rider, photographer, and anyone involved. If that means we have to move at a little bit slower pace, so be it!”
This also relates to receiving your photos. Your photographer should outline an expected delivery time in your contract. I try to send sneak peaks to my clients within 24 hours, unless they are on a deadline and have made me aware ahead of time. It takes time to see those flawless equine images we all love, so keep that in mind when you book a session.
What are a few things owners can have on hand during a photoshoot to make help things go smoothly?
- “An extra person or two! I try to always bring someone with me, and If I cannot do so, I make sure to let the client know so that we have an extra set of hands. You will find it much easier to have people doing singular jobs, rather than trying to have one person hold/set the horse, get the horse’s attention, and fix a mane or tail all at once. “
- “A few different types of attention getters! Apps of horse-noises, plastic bags, flags, a mirror, treats, noisemakers, etc. Those ears are the money makers, and these aids will help things go quickly and smoothly in the ear department.”
- “I always recommend having a comb, brush, and a couple of rags on hand. These come in handy in fixing a number of small things for both horse and rider.”
- “This isn’t something necessarily to have on hand, but let your photographer know your horse’s personality. They will sometimes have some tips or tricks up their sleeves to work best with either a lazy horse or one that is a bit antsy, will and keep everyone happy and things moving smoothly.”
If you could give one final piece of advice to owners who are preparing for a photoshoot with the intention of marketing their horse, what would that be?
“My main piece of advice would just be to understand that you are receiving the product that you pay for. Professional equine photography is so much more than a point and a click of a camera and pricing will reflect that. These photos are created by professionals who have done the homework to educate themselves on the best ways to photograph and market your horse. You wouldn’t hire someone who plays with legos to build your house, and the same mindset should apply to professional photos. Do your research on your photographer and their style, openly communicate with them, and understand your contract and copyright. This will all help out so much in the long run!”
As they say, success is in the details. It’s the little things, the extra thought and preparation, the silly attention grabbers you keep on hand for the photoshoot and the careful selection of a photographer that will make all the difference when it comes to marketing your horse well.
Bringing all of these elements together will set you up for a successful photoshoot and leave you with incredible images!
Thank you Spencer for sharing your expertise in this area!
Needing to hire a photographer?
You can find Caballo Creative Co. and other professionals on our hiring site!