Outdoor Photography

Outdoor model photography can be challenging, but can yield results that are difficult if not impossible to duplicate in a studio setting. Besides, it's a great excuse to go outside and play! Since you're dealing with real estate, it's important to keep the three Golden Rules in mind: location, location, and location.

Cyldesdale the woods

I spent some time fussing over this setup and wondering what to do about the large privacy fence in the background - until it dawned on me that from a different angle I could make use of the lovely stand of trees across the street. I wasn't happy about the green glare back up on the model from the footing, and the pasture fence behind him could be a bit higher for better perspective, but overall it came out well and through the years the judges seem to have agreed. "Milwaukee Majesty" is a multi-champion - hopefully I can find a better digital copy of this picture at some point than this small, low-res thumbnail.

Clydesdale in the paddock

Another one of my North Light Clydesdale team, and another top showhorse: this is "Samuel Adams". Unfortunately I no longer had a forest across the street to work with, and no matter what angle I tried I couldn't completely avoid yet another privacy fence. The props do at least help focus on the horse. The fence is a touch too low for the size of the model, but I think I got away with it here because it's well behind the horse, and the horse itself is a large breed. One thing I didn't get away with: I missed lowering my tripod by about a half inch and thus eliminating a break between the footing and the background. Oops.

Irish Draft in the paddock

Same location, but this time I was able to find an angle I liked better, in part because this picture was taken a few years later and by then a neighbors backyard tree had finally grown enough to work well in the background. A different time of day with different sunlight could improve this shot, as the horses profile is a bit lost against back shadow. Still, good enough not to bin it. This is "McFarland's Majesty", an original finish Breyer and especially dear to me. Not only do I love this mold, and this color on it, but he was a present from my mom. :-)

Lady Vader

This is "Lady Vader", demonstrating that just because a model needs a base to stand upright doesn't mean it has to be obvious. Or even visible. The grass mats I use from the model railroad suppliers are inexpensive enough I don't flinch at cutting a hole in one when need be, to let the hoof peg on a model horse poke through.

One thing remains the same in all the above setups: the platform the models are on is a city utility box in the corner of the backyard where we lived at the time (no, I didn't bring the one from the first location with me to the second :-)). As one of my original mentors in the hobby taught me, pay attention to your surroundings and make use of what's available!

Perfect Charmer snow

No platform this time, although I most certainly was making use of what was available. Ideally I should have flopped on my belly to get a more ground level perspective, and a prop fence behind the horse would have added a nice touch. Unfortunately I had to rush this a bit; winter sunlight can be fleeting, especially when it is briefly popping out in the middle of a snowstorm, and it was bitterly *cold*. Soap flakes or even sugar are favored by hobbyists as scenic snow footing, but that stuff there is the real thing. My OF Breyer Saddlebred, "Perfect Charmer", didn't mind at all - but I did!

Sunset Blizzard

Sometimes what's available isn't as obvious as a large utility box or a fresh 6 inch snowfall. You may not even know a certain setting will work until you try it and see the finished product. This setup is about as simple as it gets, but technically it works pretty well: the model is in focus, the footing is unbotrusive and in scale, and the light colored horse is nicely outlined and set off by the darker, out of focus background. Here "Sunset Blizzard", an OF Stone Chips Stock Horse, is posing at the end of a swimming pool diving board.


Just a couple of minor adjustments can give you a whole new look. "Leandro", an OF Breyer Stablemate, is feeling his oats in the same spot where Sunset was standing. I changed the footing, shifted my shooting angle, and brought the background into a bit more focus, but still soft enough to avoid distracting from the model. The ground mat was just about the easiest, no-fuss-no-muss I've ever used: a lightweight brown garment bag, and thanks to my Mom who suggested it (creativity runs in the family). This photo qualified in a liberty class for the MEPSA 2010-2011 year end Championship Show. Go Leo! :-)


Another very quick setup - with a spare board, once again on top of what was available (no, not a utility box this time). The overcast winter sunshine doesn't do justice to this Schleich Poitou donkey, but I do like the sort of tangled forest effect of the background. This was a totally spur-of-the-moment shot; I really just wanted to get a sense of how photogenic "Joscelyn" would be. Personally I think my little pocket digital camera likes her just fine, poor light notwithstanding. I suspect my digital SLR rig will like her even better.

Ozark Danseur

This setup blends a bit of indoor strategy with outdoor atmosphere. I used what I call a "DIY box booth" as a photo booth, and set it up on a table outside on a sunny midafternoon. It's rare that I take my little models outside for a photo shoot, but the box booth offers some protection from errant breezes, while still allowing in natural light from three sides, and it's super easy to set up, as in, just put it wherever works. I used a backdrop made from a photo I took of a local equestrian center, a fence I made from coffee stirring-sticks, and inexpensive dollhouse grass I found on Amazon. Proof you do NOT need elaborate setups or expensive props to take an attractive model horse photo. The model is a Breyer Stablemate Missouri Foxtrotter customized by Jenia Erickson, and "Ozark Danseur" is already a winner in the show ring. :-)

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