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How to take pictures of Dressage – Dressage Photography
Camera settings and light.


I usually take dressage pictures outdoors and the first thing that I look for when choosing a position is the position of the sun. I don’t want to be shooting into the sun; I prefer to have the sun behind me or over one of my shoulders.

If I am indoors, that is a totally different situation.

The best dressage pictures follow the same rules as any other pictures

  1. Focus on your subject
  2. If possible look around the ring before you start to see where the best backgrounds are, the places with the least distractions.

When outdoors I usually have varying light and I cannot be concentrating on getting the position of the horse correct and changing my camera settings every time the sun goes behind a cloud or peeps out. I use the shutter priority and put it above 1/500 or I set the camera and the f-stop for the average light situation and put my ISO onto auto making sure that I do not start with a situation that will put me off the charts for the auto ISO.

Be respectful of the rules and circumstances

As a sport or activity, Dressage comes with a lot of rules or situations. If you are working with riding school horses, they are used to just about anything but some professional Dressage Horses are a different type of animal all together.

These are some of the things that I have to watch out for when I am taking pictures at a Dressage show.

  • I do not wear brightly coloured clothes or clothes that blow in the wind.
  • When the rider and horse are being introduced to the judge, I like to be in position where the horse can see me clearly and knows that I am there and there are no surprises.
  • I cannot be under a strange umbrella
  • I keep still with no noise and especially no phone
  • I talk to the officials before the show starts and make sure that they agree on the spot that I will be photographing from so that I do not break any of the official rules.
  • Do not use flash with a dressage horse during the judging.
  • When taking pictures at the presentation of prizes ask the rider before you start if it will be OK to change the position of the ribbon or fix anything that you see out of place on the horse. Some horses do not like to be messed with.
Getting the best dressage picture

To get the best dressage pictures, you need to know some of the basics. It will be very difficult to get good pictures if you do not have a clue what you are looking for. It would be best to go to a few shows (or at least one) and ask someone who knows what to look for. Try to spot the peak moments of each move and capture them with your camera.

With each of the moves that the horse makes, there is an optimum point to catch. As an example, in the extended trot it would be when the horse is the most extended or stretched into the trot. The horse has a rocking horse action and it is always better to catch it when the front is in the up position or the horse is flat.

Just like surfing or many other sports, there are moves to catch and knowing them makes all the difference when catching the perfect photograph.

And remember the position of the horse is just a part of the picture. Dressage is very precise, like dancing, the rhythm of the rider and horse together make a perfect partnership. Together they are the perfect team.

I wish you all the best with your dressage pictures.

 

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