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Take great photos of your foal by following a few simple tips.

Taking Better Foal Photos

Oh baby, it’s that time of year again! Quarter Horse News has started publishing foal photos, and we’ll continue to print them until July 1. There is always lots of “ooohing and aaahing” when new photos hit our inbox. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love baby pictures, especially gangly legged foals?

As I edited the first batch of foal images this week, it occurred to me, “Why not help our readers get the best shots they can of their babies?” So I’m going to give you a few pointers on how to best capture and send us your foal photos.

  1. I always recommend using a digital camera when creating photos intended for printing. Yes, smart phones are capable of taking great shots, but a digital camera is going to get you the best quality image for print. If you’re not sure what you’re doing with your camera, start by setting it to one of your camera’s auto modes – Portrait or Sports/Action are usually good bets. The auto settings take care of all the details – ISO, white balance, shutter speed, f-stops and focus. If you’re not sure how to change the mode, give the operating manual a once-over. There’s usually a “get started quick” guide at the beginning.
  2. Try photographing during the “Golden Hour” – either the first hour after sunrise or the last hour before sunset. There’s just something magical about the quality of light you get during these times of the day. There’s even a website to help you figure out when your Golden Hours will happen.
  3. Avoid shooting during the middle of the day in bright sunlight. It makes for dark, harsh shadows. High-noon sun on a cloudless day will make your photos look bad.
  4. Cloudy days can be your friend. Light overcast days are ideal for shooting during the day. They filter the light and allow for even, soft shadows. Images shot on a cloudy day will be better than a full-sun day, but not as pretty as Golden Hour photos.
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    Harsh, midday overhead light (left) vs. Golden Hour light (right)

    To catch your foals running across the pasture or leaping in the air, try the Shutter Priority Mode (S or TV on your camera). The faster your shutter speed is, the more frozen and defined your subject will be. The Sport/Action auto mode of your camera will do this, as well.

  6. Keep an eye on background elements and try to avoid busy backgrounds. Most pastures lend themselves well to clutter-free shots, but be aware of fence posts. Your foal might end up looking like he has a pole or tree growing out of his head. Don’t be afraid to get close and fill the frame.
  7. File format. Most digital cameras come out of the box ready to shoot images in a “jpg” format. This is the easiest format to use when e-mailing files. If you are shooting in auto mode, send the image that comes right out of the camera.
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Good light (left) vs. harsh light, shadows and low quality from a cell phone (right)

Practically everyone has a smart phone these days. Even people who use digital cameras usually have their phone on them first. Smart phone cameras are increasing in quality, and the images they produce are wonderful for sharing on social media and websites. In some cases, they can even be used for printing. I don’t recommend using a smart phone for your foal photos, but if you have to, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Use the same basic tips noted above about on what time of the day to shoot.
  2. Hold your smart phone horizontal rather than vertical, and as steady as possible.
  3. Avoid any excessive editing effects. There are many apps that can aid the average person in making better photographs. Don’t overdo it.
  4. Send the original photo to Quarter Horse News. This is the most important tip for smart phone photos. When you are ready to send us the photos, e-mail them directly from the phone that took them. If and when your phone asks you what size to send (iPhones do this), choose “Actual Size.” This will provide us with the best-quality image to use in the magazine.

Email your foal photos to [email protected]. If you need to mail prints, make sure they are at least 5” x 7” in size (8” x 10” is preferred) and mail them to Cowboy Publishing Group, Attention: Teri Lee, 2112 Montgomery St., Fort Worth, TX 76107.

Most importantly, have fun with your photography, and your new foals!